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.


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.