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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Honours- Hero of the People 2015.




The Socialist Aotearoa "Hero of the People" award this New Year goes to rugby star Sonny Bill Williams, 
for his services to Syrian refugees.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Poverty, Pedagogy, Precarity- Workers Voice radio - December 20th 2015

Workers Voice December 20- Joe Carolan talks to tertiary union activist Suha Aksoy, percarious worker-blogger Chloe Anne King and socialist campaigner Stephen Hassan  on issues from poverty to pedagogy in Aotearoa today. Also- from Star Wars to Class Wars- do we need a Rebel Alliance?

 tertiary union activist Suha Aksoy

 percarious worker-blogger Chloe Anne King

 socialist campaigner Stephen Hassan


Friday, November 27, 2015

People and Planet- We Need a Revolution.

If we want to stop Climate Change, we need to end, not reform, Capitalism. To do that will require a revolution. Today's Global day of action will demonstrate internationalism and people power as an alternative to parliamentary reformism and green capitalism. We stand in solidarity with French anti capitalists who will defy the State of Emergency to bring the movement onto the streets of Paris, against those governments who are destroying our world with War, greed and pollution.

 System change, not climate change.

-Socialist Aotearoa






Monday, November 23, 2015

The FIght for Migrant Workers in Auckland- Workers Voice Radio


FIGHTING FOR MIGRANT WORKERS RIGHTS IN AUCKLAND- Listen to Mexican refugee Diego Compa, Anu Kaloti from the Migrant Workers Association of Aotearoa and Sunny Sehgal , organiser for E tū talking about the exploitation of migrant workers in New Zealand to Joe Carolan on Unite Union's "Workers Voice" radio show.

THE HIKOI FOR HOMES

The shout of ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’ never sounded better than on yesterday’s Hikoi for Homes from Glenn Innes to Orakei. It was a bleak day but even the vicious rain couldn’t dampen spirits or the sense of growing empowerment as hundreds of trade unionists, campaigners, activists and political party members defied a police appeal to ‘stick to the sidewalk’ on the 6km march. 

Historic change never came from sticking to the sidewalk; we were there to shout it loud, shout it proud: A home is a basic human right – and we want decent housing now. The march, organised by Child Poverty Action Group, brought together a number of campaigners and activists – among them First Union, Unite Union, Socialist Aoteaora, the Green Party, Labour Party, Auckland Action Against Poverty, Child Poverty Action Group and many other individuals - unified in the aim of securing decent housing, an end to state house sell-offs, and rent control. 
  
While good weather would have meant a larger march, the response of the public was indicative of the mood of many. Motorist after motorist beeped and yelled their support and gave our banners the thumbs-up. Because quite simply, people have had enough. The housing situation is a travesty; in August the Herald reported that the average Auckland home earned nearly $230 a day in the past year - about twice what the average worker made in their job.

 While the cost of housing is taking up more and more of our salaries, we’ve seen little in the way of pay rises or job security. Our poorest and most vulnerable are finding it increasingly hard to access – or remain in - state housing, more people are being forced to rent (with zero controls over how much rent can increase by), and housing for the poor, where it exists, is wholly inadequate. Last year saw the tragic death of toddler Emma Lita Bourne, which was attributed to the poor condition of her south Auckland home. 




And yesterday we were there to demand change. In the same spirit that put an end to zero hour contracts and that saw tens of thousands march against the TPPA in recent months, the march was vocal and strong in stating that housing is a right, not a plaything of market forces. At the end-of-march rally, Fa'anana Efeso Collins talked of the need to embrace the spirit of Jeremy Corbyn, to use our people power to claim what is rightfully ours.

 The march wasn’t the hugest of recent times, but it felt like a barometer of the political mood. There is a growing sense that if change is to come, it is to happen at grassroots level, that organising in our workplaces and communities is the only way to make our voices heard. The secrecy over the disastrous TPPA contract; the refusal of our leaders to act on climate change; the mean-spirited response to the plight of refugees coupled with attempts by the far right in Europe to scapegoat Muslims; the bankruptcy of capitalism worldwide, its inability to climb out of financial crisis and its insistence that the only way to defeat ‘terror’ is to unleash a terror of its own, killing thousands of civilians in the Middle East as it does so… all of these developments have had the cumulative effect of underlining just how little capitalism has to offer us.

 Yesterday is only the beginning of the fight. And not just for housing.

 Maria Hoyle, Socialist Aotearoa

 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

No troubles in Godzone?




by Emir Hodzic, artist and social justice activist




Being in New Zealand now, while the Middle East burns and Europe is overwhelmed with refugees, is like being on the other side of the planet. Well, New Zealand is actually on the other side of the planet. So far away in fact, that nothing disrupts Prime Minister’s “rebranding” project. Nothing except rugby, that is. Everything is fine and dandy in Godzone. Except, sometimes thousands of “uninformed” and “politically irrelevant” New Zealanders take to the streets in protest of the TPPA free trade agreement, and the unusual secrecy behind it.


Unfolding human tragedy does make it to the 6 o’clock news, but it is so far away that it isn’t our problem. Most have accepted the Government’s explanation that we can’t afford to take more refugees, and some have even embraced good old-fashioned racism and bigotry. “All they will do is sit around dreaming of ways to kill us” one concerned Kiwi commented, “What you people need is a boot back to your nation, and fight your own way out, you maggots” suggested another. The most prominent concern is, of course, that we should help our own first, and not waste money on others. The same argument can be heard around the world.


Seems perfectly logical though, doesn’t it? Auckland rent prices are sky high, and food prices are among the highest in the world. Unemployed, and those living on minimum wage, are having a rough time in paradise. However, it has escaped the attention of these concerned patriots, that despite warnings from academics and some politicians regarding the growing inequality in New Zealand, the right wing government has been voted in three times! All of a sudden, we notice the growing gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”, and the need to take care of our own. If only NZ took in more refugees, we could blame them for taking our jobs.


I came to NZ as a refugee, and it is difficult to read racist comments about refugees. As someone who went to school here, made friends, fell in love, hearing about filthy maggots and potential killers, feels like someone’s holding a torch to my face and exposing my own “otherness”. Fortunately, NZ is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and there are always opposing views.


The Government has been under pressure to increase the refugee quota, and they have done so by 600. Which still ranks NZ 90th in the world in per capita assistance to refugees. Local artists, like musician Neil Finn, Green party members, Amnesty International, and worker unions like Unite Union, have all voiced their concern at the Government’s lack of leadership in the wake of the refugee crises. Calling the current response “inadequate”.


Thousands of New Zealanders around the country have turned out in support of doubling New Zealand’s refugee quota. Candlelit vigils were held around the country, and only days a go I was at the “refugees welcome here” gathering in Auckland. Nevertheless, as it goes with international investment bankers turned politicians, the Prime Minister ignored the public.






On the other side of the planet, there are thousands of refugees moving through former Yugoslavia, a region that is still recovering from the bloody war of the nineties. The Serbian government is waiting for EU to give them some money before they do more, Croatian president Kolinda Grabar, went so far in fear mongering that she wants troops to defend the Croatian border! Inspired by the Hungarian humanitarian efforts, I guess. The situation in Bosnia is, well, even refugees from Syria are walking around it (unless Hungarian and Croatian borders close). But one thing that connects Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, New Zealand, and many other countries, is the response of the people.


Thousands of Bosnians of different ethnic backgrounds collected tons of aid, and have taken it to Serbia, and with Serbian volunteers have tried to help as best they could. The same goes for Croatia, and other European countries. While New Zealand is far away, thousands that took to the street in support of doubling the refugee quota, have shown that even New Zealand isn’t blind to the unfolding human tragedy.


New Zealand can’t hide from the world and continue to play the game of global capitalism - the New Zealand Government can’t support US wars but turn its head from the consequences. What we are seeing in Syria and Iraq can be traced back to the US-UK illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. With the standoff in Iraq today, ISIS still standing strong, Assad receiving Russian aid, it is hard to see things “improving” anytime soon. While the Western governments play geopolitics, and exploit the last drops of fossil fuels for their corporate sponsors, real people suffer.


In the age of crypto-fascist corporate imperialism, where secret free trade agreements are giving even more powers to multinational corporations, and most politicians serve the interests of big business, there is no utopia to hide in. And New Zealand is certainly not an exemption. There is no place far away enough, that is immune to world’s ills. And it is the people who understand this, that are also learning to self organise, act on principle of solidarity, and can’t be duped by mass media anymore. Future generations will, undoubtedly, judge us on how we treated those that needed our help the most. And it is thousands of people who extended their hand to those whose lives were reduced in value by externalities, that I consider my “own”.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

This is a 21st Century EXODUS

 

can’t share that picture of the drowned toddler on the beach of Fortress Europe. He was the age of my daughter Aoibheann. But things need to change. The boy’s name was Aylan. He was 3, and came from Kobani. Kobani, where the socialist and feminist grassroots resistance to ISIS is now attacked on the other side by the Western ally, Turkey.

I’m an Irishman who moved here from the North of Ireland first in 1999. Our hometown Dundalk took a huge amount of refugees from the Loyalist pogroms in the North of Ireland in the early 1970s. It was the biggest movement of displaced people internally in Europe from the end of World War Two, until the fall of Yugoslavia. We grew up in a town of solidarity, where thousands of people fled for their lives from burning houses and deathsquads, from a regime that shot civil rights protesters dead on the streets. We did it then, we can do it now.

Some of these people who talk about “looking after our own”, I’ve never seen marching against privatisation or the TPPA, or on the picket lines with striking low paid workers fighting zero hours contracts , or putting their bodies in front of trucks stealing state houses in Glen Innes, or supporting Maori and their struggle for Tino rangatiratanga and sovereignty. As we used to chant against the Nazis in Europe – “Unemployment and inflation, are not caused by immigration – bullshit! Come off it! The enemy is profit. ”

Double the quota is still pathetic. The racist Australian government of Tony Abbot says it will take in 12,000 refugees. New Zealand – let’s welcome Ten Thousand refugees now and do our part to help the oppressed and suffering masses.

Joe Carolan SA
Republished from the Daily blog with permission.

Welcome Ten Thousand Now. 2pm, Aotea Square. Saturday September 19th. Bring a tent.

Sound systems in the centre with musicians, djs, and speakers from oppressed countries and solidarity groups, at the centre of a circle of tents forming a global village or a refugee camp.

EVENT PAGE:

Share hard and invite- 2,300 coming already

Refugees are welcome here. A fundraiser for Auckland Refugee Council.

Account Name: Auckland Refugee Council Inc.

Account No: 12-3011-0762215-02

Reference: Welcome 10000 & Organisation name

Sunday, September 06, 2015

International Socialist Tendency statement on the European refugee crisis

By The Coordination of the International Socialist Tendency

1. Europe is facing what has been called its “greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War”. Global levels of displacement due to war and persecution have reached horrific proportions. Some 13.9 million were displaced in 2014 alone. The numbers entering Europe in July were three times higher than a year earlier.
The largest source of refugees making the desperate journey to Europe is Syria. Here the civil war that started with the Assad regime’s attempt to crush the uprising that began in 2011 has been exacerbated by the rise of Islamic State. However, this can only be understood in the context of the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq, led by the US and Britain. This Western-led offensive, the devastation it caused and the attempt of the occupiers to use sectarian forces to stabilise the country paved the way for the sharpening of conflict across the region.
Afghanistan, another country invaded and occupied by Western forces in recent years, is a second major source of refugees. Here too, far from war bringing liberation it has brought about a humanitarian catastrophe and growing persecution. Other refugees come from East Africa, where Western intervention in the region’s conflicts has helped to establish some of the most militarised societies on the planet.
Some 80 percent of those displaced by war, persecution and impoverishment remain within developing countries. When a fraction of these refugees seek to escape to Europe they are met with police violence – the “jungle” camp in Calais, France; the 110-mile fence being built by Hungary on its border; or the naval operations led by Frontex in the Aegean and the Mediterranean that have ended up in tragedies with hundreds drowned.
And when some manage to cross all these barriers they are met with police operations that round them up in camps where they have to resort to rioting to break free from inhuman conditions. This has, for example, happened repeatedly in the concentration camp at Amygdaleza in Greece, where refugees have recently begun a hunger strike in protest at their conditions.
2. The crisis has shown the hypocrisy of the European Union’s supposed commitment to “free movement”. The counterpart of the creation of a single labour market within its borders is the creation of “Fortress Europe” – policed by the Frontex agency and defended with rhetoric no less racist than that of traditional European nationalism. Capitalism sucks in workers from all over the world to fuel its profits, but uses racism and immigration controls to divide workers and undermine their organisation and struggles.
The result in Europe has been fatal. Last week alone, almost 300 were lost on a boat off the Libyan coast; 71 migrants, four of them children, were found dead in a lorry in Austria; most recently, 12 Syrians drowned off the coast of Turkey, including two small Kurdish boys and their mother.
The climate of racism and Islamophobia, whipped up by mainstream politicians in recent years has allowed right-wing forces to capitalise on the refugee crisis. In Britain, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, warned that those fleeing might be “extremists from Isis or other jihadi institutions”. Marine Le Pen of France’s fascist Front National has called for the country to close its borders altogether. Hungary’s Viktor Orban has spoken of his country being “overrun” by refugees who, he complained are Muslim rather than Christian.
3. The response from many working class people across Europe has contrasted with that of their rulers. Some 20,000 assembled in Vienna, Austria, to welcome refugees. Thousands have protested against racism in Germany. Vast amounts of aid have been collected in workplaces and communities in Britain to be taken to camps in France. Without the support from local populations in Greece, Macedonia and Serbia the refugees from Syria would not have reached Budapest, clashing with police on the borders and at the train stations.
The response shows the scope for a challenge to the racist offensive across Europe. The kind of networks established by the coordinated anti-racist protests held internationally in March 2014 and March 2015 have played a role in mobilising in support of refugees.
4. We reject the racism directed towards those seeking to enter Europe. We call for the borders to be opened, for the humanitarian needs of the refugees to be met and for safe passage to be afforded to them to their chosen destination.
We condemn the policies of Fortress Europe and call for the disbanding of Frontex.
We call for the refugee camps to be shut down. We stand in solidarity with the struggles organised by migrants, who have protested against their persecution at Budapest rail station, in the camps at Calais and in Greece, and on the Hungarian border.
We support the range of anti-racist protests and other solidarity initiatives being organised across Europe.
5. As socialists we reject the idea that refugees or migrants are a threat to the interests or living standards of working class people or that, as is often said, “We should look after our own first”. On the contrary those responsible for inflicting austerity, cutbacks, unemployment and homelessness on working people are also the people responsible for the refugee crisis. We say it is in the interests of workers everywhere to oppose all attempts by our rulers to divide and rule, to welcome refugees and to struggle alongside them for a decent life for all.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

British Imperialism and the Nz flag.



As an Irish Kiwi, I could never be represented by a flag with that Butcher's Apron in the corner. It flew over Ireland when British imperialism put our people through a Late Victorian Holocaust, a famine genocide where millions died and millions more were dispersed through diaspora. The origins of the Irish community in Aotearoa and Australia spring from that trauma. The Butcher's Apron was flown by State forces that crushed the revolutions of 1798, 1848 and 1916, and flew over my head as we endured the military occupation and repression in the North of Ireland through thirty years of deathsquads , civil rights violations and slaughter some call "Troubles". The flag that makes my heart rise in Aotearoa is the red, white and black of the Tino rangatiratanga of the Maori people, and the red flag of the international working class. The red on both of these flags has a deeper spiritual symbolism than the blood that the Butcher's Apron is soaked in forever.


Joe Carolan. SA.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Not My Stonewall.

Erasure of people of colour in a Hollywood feature is nothing new. Nor is the tired practice of casting a cisgender man in the role of a Transgender Female character. Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall movie however takes erasure to new heights. The 1969 stonewall uprising was by all means the turning point for LGBT liberation
The stonewall uprising it ‘self was not an Isolated incident but rather another in a series of protest actions in major cities across the United States of America the earliest occurring a decade before stronewall at Coopers Doughnuts in Los Angeles. This was followed by other direct actions throughout the United States most being led by Transgender Women of colour. Its important to realize the class as race distinctions played a huge part in LGBT oppression during this era. Rich Homosexual men tended to suffer under the anti-gay laws in the USA during this time period. Working class Queers suffered far more than the rich and Queer people of Colour faced discrimination even within the LGBT community (some would argue they still do to this day). Trans people were themselves seen as bellow most of the gay community. And Homeless Trans women of colour very much bore the brunt of the anti LGBT laws of that time.
The stonewall story can’t be told properly without understanding the dynamics of oppression that caused not only stonewall but also the preceding actions of the prior decade. Without this basic understanding the Roland Emmerich movie is nothing more than a Hollywood fantasy that shares only the name and location of a significant historical event.  


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Solidarity with and for meat workers more important than ever

originally published on the Daily Blog. published here with the permission of the author.

Solidarity with and for meat workers more important than ever


More than 70% of AFFCO’s meat workers are Maori, in communities where alternative work options are few, where jobs are a scarce and valued commodity, and where loyalties to the industry are strong.
The wealth of the Talley family is over $300 million. That’s more than any family needs to meet reasonable life time aspirations. It’s certainly enough to carry great currency in a country where family dynasties influence environmental and employment law. It’s an obscene amount when Talley’s workers face worsening employment conditions under increasing pressure to maximise throughput, long hours in dangerous settings, increasing casualization, real health and safety risks, threatened loss of seniority rights and a stripping away of union protections and voice.
But there’s a convergence of both class and racial injustice in the way the Talley family acquires companies, strips union and workers’ strength and pushes employment conditions to the wire in pursuit of yet more profit. Here’s a white family with more money than anyone could ever need, screwing thousands of (mainly) Maori workers and forcing them to work harder, increase process outputs, under less safe conditions, with fewer rights so the Talleys themselves can accumulate more.
More than 70% of AFFCO’s meat workers are Maori, in communities where alternative work options are few, where jobs are a scarce and valued commodity, and where loyalties to the industry are strong. With families to feed, workers do not take strike action lightly. But given the power imbalance between the employer and employed, workers have to stand together if they are to stand at all. In the long struggle against workplace oppression in AFFCO meat plants, solidarity between iwi, workers and unions has been key. The important force of this relationship was proven in 2012 when after a three month lock-out by Talley’s of its workers, iwi interests threatened to withhold stock supplies until an agreement with Maori workers was reached, broke the stalemate, and forced Talley’s back to the negotiating table in principle if not in good faith intent.
But last weekend, this essential troika that gave Maori / working class interests power against the Talley bosses, was undermined by arguably unmandated and illegitimate agreement reached between shed president/secretaries, Tuku Morgan and Ken Mair, and Peter Talley, which saw this week’s well planned and supported strike, and rally at Parliament, called off. The disappointment, disbelief and dismay among workers, unionists and supporters, was palpable. What had been given up, and why?
The common interests of Maori and workers were fractured. The union was undermined, by an agreement that pulled the legs from the common call to stand together and strike. The shed bosses, the ‘iwi representatives’ and Talley’s agreed to a two month negotiating period, as long as the strike was called off, all legal cases were dropped, and the Meat Workers’ Union was dismissed from negotiations. Despite the illegality of this proposal, and lack of vote –and even meetings- from many union members on some of these sites, Talley’s managed to exercise their vicious divide and rule tactics and drive a wedge between the overlapping interests of class and race. The unrepresentative representatives of the workers were conned into believing the wiley old Talley leopard had changed its spots and was finally ready to negotiate in good faith. All this has done is undermine the union, give extra confidence to Talley’s, (another round to Talleys in the long fight), given Talley’s a bit of breathing and production time while they pursue employment law changes as a bigger agenda.
The Government’s support for greedy mistreatment of workers saw Peter Talley receive a knighthood for services to industry and philanthropy earlier this year. Clearly the state condones, and even repackages as benevolence, anti-worker, anti-safety, punitive and exploitative employment conditions.
But all is not lost in the battle between meat workers and the hard-nosed capitalists, Talley’s. The tenuous agreement for further negotiation excluding the Meat Workers’ Union may yet unravel. Dissent about the decisions made by Morgan, Mair et al, may yet lead to a revised position. The facts of the matter haven’t changed – and Talley’s continues to use night shift and other sanctions to punish resistance. It’s an opportunity for the Meat Workers’ Union to regroup, and to consolidate its position and its power. A class based alliance would see iwi as again key to this bulwark against Talley’s exploitation of workers and Maori.
In the meantime, the market is king, and the way those of us who aren’t meat workers, can support those who are, is by using the market to punish Talley’s, and to undermine their market share. As consumers we have a role in resisting oppression of those who have a vital role in putting the food on our table. Mike Treen advises a boycott of Talley’s products, and John Minto discusses economic sabotage in the form of damaging Talley’s goods; other non-economic options include targeting the Talley family in their Nelson mansions as was done in 2012, taking the fight to the source of the oppression in their opulent towers. As members of other unions, we also need to stand side by side with our brothers and sisters in the meat industry. No one is without power, and we all need to lend our power, whatever its form, in support of those who are obviously exploited by the food barons of this land.


Christine Rose

Disclaimer
Christine Rose is employed as Kauri DieBack Community Co-ordinator by the Auckland Council. All opinions expressed herein are Christine’s own. No opinion or views expressed in this blog or any other media, shall be construed as the opinion of the Council or any other organisation.

Another Aotearoa Is possible Tppa protest 15/8/15



A return to street politics with nationwide demonstratons against the tppa

A return to street politics with tppa demos throughout Aotearoa.


Thousands of peeople took to the streets of Auckland and many more in other centres throught Aotearoa to protest the tppa. Socialist Aotearoa were out in force at the auckland demo.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Time has Come for Rent Control

By any measure, the housing market in Auckland is overheated.  Thousands of Kiwi first home buyers are being forced out by Speculators looking for a way to trade printed  money for physical assets.  New Zealanders are witnessing the effects of the quantitative easing “tsunami” washing up on our shores.  Some see this as an opportunity, a rising tide.  But all tides must eventually turn, and when this one does, the Working Class will watch helplessly as all prospects of ever enjoying housing security will be washed out to sea.

Ordinary home owners have to work for their money, and they pay significantly more than the 0% interest rates offered to Wall Street insiders. New Zealand has one of the most open housing markets in the world.  Unlike Greece, Mexico, China and even Australia, where it is difficult for foreigners to buy houses without meeting stringent requirements, foreigners can buy New Zealand residential property over the phone, so long as they are prepared to do a little paperwork afterward. Additionally, there is no Capital Gains Tax, and no limitation on the number of properties that can be owned.  Because of this, New Zealand homes are bought and sold on the global market, exposed to the chill winds of international arbitrage.

Competition from overseas buyers has only served to stoke the enthusiasm of local speculators.  There is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of money for lending through our foreign-owned banks.  Unfortunately, money borrowed overseas for local property purchases must be repaid overseas, with interest, creating generational problems in our balance of payments. Rising house prices beggar the nation.  Our children will be forced to repay these loans by surrendering all the wealth built up by their parents, without ever getting the enjoyment of it.  Interest on loans based on inflated property valuations is “magic money”, created at the stroke of a pen, but it must be repaid in money earned by real work.  This is how International Banking works, or rather, how you work for International Banking.

This situation could be alleviated with legislation designed to cool off speculation, but no such legislation is even contemplated at this time.  The “Housing Accord” purports to have built thousands of houses, but there is little evidence of this; the median price for an Auckland home has just passed $700k.  Labor and National together have almost identical do-little policies, proving once again that New Zealand has had what amounts to a One Party political system since 1984. 

This forment of market activity over the last 30 years has been hailed as a resurgence of “capitalism” after the long years of the New Deal era.  However, collecting rental properties is not genuine capitalist investment, as no real surplus value is created in the form of new goods and services, except where new housing stock is built.  “Rents” collected are not production, they are transfers. The “Rentier Economy” simply churns property, while producing little economic growth. This is because houses are homes, not businesses or factories.  A residential property is not a “means of production”.  Even the Real Estate service sector actually produces nothing -  it and the banking sector with it are essentially economic “drag”.

Once we clear away the brain-fogging hype of property marketeers, what we have at the base of everything is the honest urge to live securely in a healthy, stable home.  Whether it is by renting or buying matters little, it is security that is at issue.  The dream is to live somewhere safe and secure for long enough to accomplish one's real life-goals; the raising of children, the creation of community and the actualisation of self.

Americans know all about this;  Americans once confronted property speculation in their cities with implacable collective action.  Unable to compete with speculators, many workers revolted, and won what is now known as “Rent Control”.  In San Francisco, and in New York, two famous Rent Control cities that could hardly be called “Bastions of Communism”, many tenants enjoy lifelong right of occupation in rented homes, with no rent increases.  Ever.  They are as secure in their homes as if they effectively owned them.  And while some of the controls have been eroded over time, many tenants in Rent Controlled properties have continued under these agreements for decades, paying the same rents they paid in the 1980s when they first moved in.

Despite the dire predictions of many, San Francisco did not fall into the ocean, the rich of the city were not strung up from lamp posts, and indeed the property market in San Francisco remains the picture of health.  If you have the money, mortgage free, you can buy whole apartment buildings, happily and securely tenanted, with predictable rental returns sufficient to pay property taxes and reasonable maintenance.  But what you can't do is buy buildings wholesale using mortgage debt;  the rents won't cover the loan repayments, and that is actually by design.

Why are even the rich of San Francisco happy with Rent Control?  Because the beast Speculation was stopped from devouring the people who made the city what it was.  Rent Control preserved the quality of life and the character of the city.  San Francisco is in many respects a much more liveable city than Auckland, and this is directly attributable to the longevity and stability of its residents.  San Franciscans looked at where they lived, on a narrow harbour peninsula not too different from Auckland, and realised that urban growth was something they did not want.  Today, San Francisco is a colourful, low-rise city, made up mostly of homes and apartments.  There are very few high-rise towers.  When you are in San Francisco, you know it, you are not confused by the globalist homogeneity that characterises most of the world's major city centres.  Rather, throughout San Francisco, vibrant communities thrive, producing culture, the arts, music, theatre, political engagement, generating a stable tax base for the city administration.  Even low-paid workers are able to spend and contribute to the economy, because of their improved purchasing power.  Only in areas where residential tenancy is short-term and unstable, as it is near the Tenderloin do San Franciscans see serious crime.

It is time to introduce Rent Control in Auckland.  Auckland needs to learn how to create urban community, similar to that found in San Francisco and New York.  This cannot be done while tenants are kept in a constant state of precarity and farmed for rent like battery hens.  If the city of Auckland does not correct itself, it risks becoming an urban desert or worse. Auckland is headed toward a sterile future, resembling inner London, where social policies which favour rich property speculators have created gleaming towers of empty apartments devoid of genuine cultural life and the diversity that goes with it.  The urban working poor who created the “Swinging London” that fostered the likes of David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and of course, the Beatles are gone now. The hoard of grasping Trust Babies, Sloan Rangers or Princeling-Brats are no replacement; they have cash, but create nothing.

As important as cultural arguments are, there are serious issues which make Rent Control especially urgent.  Workers need action now on housing security.  If gleaming sterility was the worst that could happen, we could bear it.  But those soul-less towers in London are surrounded by a growing-thing to be dreaded; “The Favela”. You will never see the “Favela” mentioned in any of Auckland Council's glossy brochures.  But it is definitely there, if you look beyond the sunny scenes of face-painted children and cardboard carnival attractions.  It is conspicuous by its absence to those who actually live in the city and know of its existence. “Favela” is the Portuguese word for the massive super-slums growing up around most of the super-cities around the world, like Rio, New Delhi and Mexico City.  Favela's are populated by workers surviving off of the refuse of the gleaming precincts at the centre of their sprawl.  Its inhabitants service the sprawl, and subsist on it.

In his outstanding book, “Planet of the Slums,” Mike Davis explains how “Landlordism” is the spine of the Favela, running from top to bottom, preventing anyone in its clutches from ever escaping.  A towering chain of property rights and sub-leases create a grubby aristocracy linking penthouses at the top to the local Patron collecting rag-bags for rent at the bottom.  The residents of the Favela must pay rent to sleep and eat, even if the space they rent is barely enough to lay down in.  Rents of more than half of all earnings are common.  And flowing upward, ever upward, billions of tributaries tinged with blood converge to make a mighty river running uninterrupted from leachate pond to presidential palace.

The most horrifying aspect of the Favela that Davis describes is the impossibility of escape or any hope of returning to one's former prosperity, once entered.  Without a safety net, even traditionally stable middle class public servants and well-educated professionals can trip and fall into the maw.  New residents are immediately and mercilessly exploited by landlords sub-leasing space in dangerous shacks perched on the smoking slopes of the toxic waste-dump where they will likely spend the rest of their short unhappy lives.  In this hell, there is no leisure, no saving for emergencies, no chance to get clean or relax, as each day leaves you with just enough money to begin the next day at zero again.
This process has already begun in New Zealand.  There are thousands of workers who live like this, unsuspected, in our city.  They sleep 5 to a room, and wash at work, making just enough money for bus fare to and from the mouldy rooms they rent from their exploiters.  We are barely cognisant of them when they serve us.

What was once unimaginable is now an alarming reality on the streets of Auckland. Uncontrolled residential property speculation and uncontrolled rents are the fuel for the fire in the Favela.  It is not the evidence of third-world conditions, but the precarity of the workers and the degree of their exploitation which is at issue.  The Favella exists all around us.  The accelerating mass-migration of workers to the outskirts, and their subsequent disproportionately high rents indicates the trend.
What drives people into the Favella?  It is the inability to pay rent which causes the inexorable slide, forcing people lower and lower into the depths.  As more workers slide into the Favela, the Favela becomes a self-sustaining vortex, pulling more and more people into it, as its edges blur, converge and intrude on us all.  Once the Favela takes hold, it becomes permanent – not even fire, or regular surging invasions by police can touch it. Auckland may be years away from seeing slums like Rio, but by that time, but that is more due to differences in scale and initial conditions – the tendency follows the same trajectory.  The Favela becomes a seething mass of population, trapped in what the French call “System-D”, without laws or regulations, but by no means free.  With no place else to go, without even the ability to escape in their dreams, till the garbage-generating civilisation which supports it collapses.

We can stop this.  The Workers of Auckland must combine to resist this tendency before it is so deeply established that it can never be reversed.  Nothing less than a united coalition of all workers, unions and social justice organisations can avert the crisis.  Rent Control has been the remedy used in some of America's largest cities, and it can work here. But stop it we must, before it is too late, and the Favela grows to consume us all.

Linda SA