Friday, April 25, 2014

Some thoughts on Anzac Day

For many nations today the dominant people within that nation displaced another people so it is only natural that the narrative that is said to have brought the nation into being is set many years after the nation in question first came into being. In the narrative of the New Zealand nation we are first taught about the invasion of Gallipoli where the nation was supposedly brought together by the common struggle (to help the British imperial war machine gain a foothold in the Middle East). Indeed the lives of countless generations. However this is not unique to the New Zealand nation it is not uncommon to hear English historians talk about Agincourt as if the nation were founded due to that common struggle (also on foreign soil and also to the betterment of the English war machine and ruling class). 

So why would the ruling class that dominate any given nation state want to distance themselves from the events surrounding the founding of the nation states that they dominate. now while the land occupied by the English part of the British nation state has been invaded so many times it is hard to know who occupied that land first the situation with the New Zealand nation is much easier to make sense of in 1815 the land of Aotearoa was a completely Maori world yet one hundred years later as New Zealand’s army set off for the great war they left behind them a predominantly Pakeha nation state. Now the population of a land does not change so markedly in such a short time without some kind of struggle. Despite this fact New Zealand schools are not known to teach anything about the land wars or about the role of the Maori land court (then called the native land court) in advancing British imperialist interests in Aotearoa. The first proper history course I was able to take at school opened with a unit on the First World War and through all the units over the three years that history was taught properly the majority of the history taught was foreign and any NZ history that was taught was from the twentieth century. Basically ANZAC day and ANZUS or how the NZ military serves the interests of foreign imperialist militaries and why you should not question the fact.

Please understand that I do not mean any disrespect to the workers who served and died at Gallipoli but celebrating the day that the New Zealand (along with Australia France and Great Britain.) nation invaded turkey to advance British imperialist interests in the middle east is an insult to the workers in uniform who died that day on the shores of Gallipoli. the working class people who were convinced that this war would end all wars and yet almost a century later our soldiers are still occupying foreign soil (Afghanistan) their lives being put at risk to advance foreign imperialist interests in the middle east.
Lest we forget: our army is still at the behest of foreign imperialist interests

By: Comrade Eva

Friday, April 18, 2014

National’s gambling problem

I was at a conference last year just outside Sydney that was hosted in a sports club. I never quite
worked out whether any sport was played there, but what was clear was there was a hell of a lot of
gambling going on. Pokie machines took up a huge section of the ground floor, and in a few months’
time, the extension would be finished, accommodating hundreds more. It had a couple of TABs
onsite: indoors and outdoors so you can carry on smoking while you gamble. Nice friendly family
feel too: they even have free bingo for the kids on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so the younger
generation don’t have to miss out. Lots of people from the local community go there because all
that gambling subsidises the bars and the food - we paid something like $10 a head for a three
course meal with drinks. It’s a great community asset, just so long as you don’t think about the faces
of the people glued to the slot machines, gambling away their wages and their lives for hours on
end, the children who won’t be fed or whose piggy banks will be raided to cover the latest gambling
debt, the hurt it will do to that community. Oh, but it always exceeds its legislated requirement
to give money to charity, so that surely makes it all ok. It’s times like this when you realise the
importance of organisations like the Problem Gambling Foundation.

Until I started writing this piece, I assumed that most people don’t need convincing that gambling is
a nasty, destructive addiction. However, reading Eric Crampton in the National Business Review, it’s
clear that there’s at least a section of the right wing that, like with most problems, treat gambling
addiction as a moral failing evident in other people, but one that shouldn’t prevent decent folk from
having their fun. I take it that Eric hasn’t had a gambling addict in his family.
So here’s how the right wing logic goes: gambling is fine, it’s just that some weak-willed people
don’t know when to stop. Of course, the charities that deal with the resulting mess feel strongly
about it, but they should just get on with picking up the pieces, and leave lobbying government to
the gambling industry who can afford to pay for corporate boxes at the rugby world cup. That’s fine,
because the gambling industry uses its own money for lobbying. Well, ok, it’s not actually its own
money – it’s the money it took off the gambling addicts who that charity is now trying to help. In
fact, National had a chance to pass legislation to make the casinos pay back gambled money that
had been stolen, like in the recent case of the $150,000 stolen from the early childhood centre, but
that wouldn’t be fair would it?

There are a number of really disturbing features about the news that the Problem Gambling
Foundation is going to lose most of its contracts. Firstly and most importantly is the impact on
people – the people who work there, the people they work with, and the relationships that they
have built. Each time National puts out contracts ‘to the market’ they destroy all of that intangible
value that they have forgotten to count, and the market might win, but the people always lose.
Who knows what impact moving services to a particular kind of religious organisation will have on
whether people will seek help? I know I would feel uncomfortable referring people to the Salvation
Army. The Problem Gambling Foundation keeps the Asian service, but where do you go if you’re not
a Christian and not Asian?

The concentration of services with larger providers is something the National government is
really keen on. They claim it’s about streamlining administration costs, which is usually nonsense
(think how much money has been saved in merging eight councils into the Supercity) – really it’s
a great way of reducing dissent when you make cuts. You give an organisation a heap of different
contracts with government, and then you start squeezing them, cutting funding, taking away
certain programmes. By then, the organisation has such a vested interest in staying friendly with
government that it can’t protest for fear of losing other contracts. The process of how decisions like the one to take away contracts from the Problem Gambling Foundation is really murky. Notice how quick Peter Dunne is to distance himself from how any decisions are made. The rhetoric about putting contracts out to tender is to increase transparency, while in fact everyone shrouds themselves in ‘commercial confidentiality’ and no one ever knows how or why the contracts get awarded. But what is clear is that no politician wants to be seen as responsible. Surely the Minister in charge should know why the contract was taken from one group and given to another. Isn’t that what Ministers are supposed to get paid for?

 Of course, we know that the main driving force behind taking away the contract is how successful the problem Gambling Foundation has been at engaging communities in challenging gambling and pushing for sinking lid policies on pokies, all of which annoys John Key’s rich casino mates.
The really significant long term and insidious impact of decisions like this is the attack on advocacy.
Government is trying to shut down civil society and prevent anyone from speaking out about
anything for fear of retribution or losing their contract or their job. We saw that last year when John
Key threatened the Human Rights Commission over their report on the GCSB legislation, when Judith Collins took away funding for law reform from Community Law Centres, and with the increased level of threats by the Department of Internal Affairs to remove organisations’ charitable status if they engage in advocacy. The Taxpayer’s union is loving it, and will continue to champion the removal of our democratic rights all the way to election day.

So what do we do? First up is a call for the funding for the Problem Gambling Foundation to be
reinstated immediately. I’d like to see them lead a protest outside Sky City to save their service and
their workers’ jobs. Second, we have to keep up the pressure against Sky City and their dodgy deals
with government. Thirdly, we have to keep speaking out, to challenge the government all the time
and everywhere so they know they can’t shut down all dissent. And most importantly, we have to
work as hard as we can to bring this government down.

Nicola, S.A

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Got Love for the Underdog

Boots Riley talks about working class resistance and radical parties in American history to a packed gathering of Mana in South Auckland.

by Nico, SA

Tuesday the 15th saw Revolutionary hip hop music come to Mangere by way of Oakland California. Boots Riley of the Coup and the street sweeper social club, along with his guitarist Grego Simmons put on an acoustic show for the Mana movement at the historic Metro theatre in Mangere.  Listen HERE

Packed with Mana supporters and fans of Boot's music and politics, Boots Riley talked about his experiences as part of Occupy Oakland and the lessons learned in that movement. He talked candidly about how when you are trying to build a mass movement, you need to work with other people who aren't revolutionaries. But that this can be plagued with infighting and disagreements if people stick to their little ideological cliques and refuse to work with those who hold different politics to you.

As comfortable answering questions as spitting verses on the mike, Boots engaged with the questions and comments from the awestruck crowd with ease and left us wanting more. He reflected on his early experiences as an organiser, trying to rally people around vague concepts such as fight racism and how little traction he got with that until he witnessed an extraordinary situation that changed his perspective on organising and politics. Two white police officers were beating on these two 8 year old black kids they claimed were selling drugs. Their mother saw the police doing this to her children and came out  and tried to stop them, they turned on her and started beating her as well. Hundreds of members of the community came out and surrounded the police in anger. The cops got scared and drew their guns and fired into the air dispersing the crowd rapidly at first. But someone started chanting out a few words that would give the crowd back their resolve. 'Fight the power, fight the power'. This was 1989, and the number one song on the radio at the time was Public enemy's son; 'Fight the Power'. A young Boots remembers that with that cry the crowd went back and they took the guns away from the cops and turned the car over. They took the Mother and her children away to safety and to hospital. With that action, they saved their lives, and took a step that hadn't been taken before. That's when he realised that hip hop, or any music could be a rallying cry, and cause unity of thought or unity of action. That's what started him on his musical journey.

He has a lot of hope for the struggle in the USA. Within the USA there's a  history of a radical militant tradition tied to labour organising. A lot of the social programs that they have in the USA exist because the government was scared there was going to be a revolution. He sees the primary contradiction in capitalism as exploitation. It happens at the point of labour, that's where we give the ruling class their power. But also where the working class has theirs.

We need to change the way we do things and get over the old rhetoric, we need to demand and not ask. These were some of the powerful ideas that Boots spoke about. For him to be speaking at an event put on by Mana was a powerful and uniting night. It reminded us of the different ways of doing politics. This was a Mana fundraiser based on Koha entrance. People gave what they could to a revolutionary event put on in a community Mana is active in. This highlights the differences between the Maori party and the Mana movement starkly. In contrast, the Maori party put on a fundraising dinner that cost $5000 to attend a dinner with john Key.

Boot's got his message across, both in his discussion as well as through his music. his first song was an accapella number titled I got love for the underdog. His ability to mix his politics with his music was felt by all and left people with a lot of interesting thoughts like his lyrics '5billion ways to kill a CEO', and 'a woman should know her place, it's on the front lines', and 'Always wear clean draws, coz life may go the wrong way'.

Boots Riley brought the punk and funk as much as he could to an acoustic show. But the messages of solidarity with others fighting the same fight, and continuing the struggle was what really rang through. Because in life, it's made up of imperfect people, and if you want to build a mass movement, you're going to have to work with them.

So have some love for the underdog and fight!