Class imbalance will determine nature of Christchurch recovery

Byron Clark, Christchurch branch organiser for Workers Party

The public consultation for the rebuild of central Christchurch – done though a combination of public meetings and the web 2.0 ‘Share an Idea’ website has thrown up some great plans. The summary of submitted transport ideas outlines a walkable central city with greater cycle facilities, integrated public transport with a central hub, and surprisingly for a city with one of the worlds highest car ownership rates, talk of a car-free central business district like some European cities are heading toward.  Is that what’s going to happen though? Architect Ian Athfield who was appointed the city’s architectural ambassador after the September 4 earthquake, has told The Press that his bottom line for the rebuild was “no one-way streets and no unnecessary buses through the city”. Mayor Bob Parker  said he has”lots of sympathy” for Athfield’s view.

Christchurch City taken by Ivan Woods

[Read more...]

Science, technology, and Maori

By Mike Kay, Workers Party

The ACT party receives little support from the actual capitalist class, therefore we argue that opposing Act (on the basis that they appear to be the worst of the bunch) should not be a key focus of activity for working class and radical activists. But their latest advert alleging “Maori privilege” has shone a light on some of the racist attitudes still lingering in New Zealand society.

John Ansell

ACT’s Marketing director John Ansell, quit his job with the comment: “These guys (Maori) have gone from the Stone Age to the Space Age in 150 years and haven’t said thanks. That’s the nature of the thing. In Maori world, if one tribe conquers another you eat the guys’ eyeballs. The Brits were pretty civilised by that standard.”

It’s hard to know where to begin with a comment like that. The British ruling class built an empire from the profits of the slave trade on which the sun never set and the blood never dried. That they called civilisation. Meanwhile Maori, along with many other indigenous people, have long been painted as cannibalistic savages. The academic Paul Moon’s recent book alleges that cannibalism in traditional Maori society was a common practice. However, the science tells a different story. Ian Barber of Otago University’s Department of Anthropology stated: “I’m not a cannibalism denier. I think there’s good traditional and historical evidence for a limited form of cannibalism. But what we don’t find in the archaeological record is clear or unequivocal evidence of any kind of widespread or comprehensive cannibalism that would involve the consumption and preparation of significant amounts of human flesh.” (NZ Listener 26/2/11)

But the idea that Maori should be grateful for “Pakeha technology” is probably the most commonplace, and not just amongst rednecks.

Recalling his discussions with his mate Aussie Huata, Dun Mihaka wrote in 1989: “The phenomena of science and technology are not, contrary to popular belief, the sole preserve of the Pakeha, or anyone else for that matter. Rather, it is the cumulative effect of the most advanced ideas that all mankind has gathered from the beginning of time… all peoples, without exception, contribute to it… The two ways by which we all do this, is by way of the hand or by way of the head. In some cases many did both. In other words you either contribute to it by way of the intellect or you contribute to it by way of your labour power. The example I regularly used to illustrate this point was the case of the work that Te Whiti o Rongomai, and his pacifist land rights followers from Taranaki did on the Otago Peninsular. I would say that while I did not dispute the fact that the engineering plan for the road running from Anderson’s Bay out to the Kaik arrived on the same ship that brought the whiteman, the pox, the bible, modern science and technology… the labour-power, the blood, sweat and tears so to speak, that made that engineering plan into a reality was to work of Maori slave labour. I have still to meet someone who, using this method of reasoning, has been able to effectively refute this statement of fact.” [Read more...]

Thirty years on: The 1981 Springbok tour and protest today

The following article is written by John Edmundson, a member of the production team of The Spark and Christchurch Branch of the Workers Party. John was highly active in the anti-apartheid movement and was arrested during the Gisborne match of the 1981 tour.

This year New Zealand hosts the Rugby World Cup and TV viewers all over the world will be getting up at all hours of the morning to watch the games. Something similar was happening exactly thirty years ago this month, when South Africa’s Springboks accepted an invitation from the New Zealand Rugby Football Union (NZRFU) to tour this country. The 1981 Springbok Tour was a momentous time in New Zealand’s history and has been the subject of much debate since. It is sufficiently significant that it is taught in school social studies and history courses as one of the defining and formative episodes in New Zealand’s history.

Apartheid
In 1981, the apartheid system was at its vicious peak in South Africa; memories were still fresh of the 1976 Soweto uprising, when the South African security forces gunned down black school children in the streets for protesting against discriminatory schooling. South Africa was fighting a war in Namibia and was projecting its war into the “frontline states” of Angola and Mozambique with virtual impunity. For its part, the South African resistance was engaging in mass strikes, popular mass protest and a fairly limited armed struggle, primarily through the medium of the African National Congress’s (ANC) Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation).

The campaign to oppose the Springbok tour of New Zealand was part of a huge international campaign to isolate South Africa in every aspect of its international dealings. There was a widely supported boycott of South African exports, a campaign to prevent trade with the Republic, and a sporting and cultural boycott. In New Zealand, the campaign had really kicked off with the “No Maoris No Tour” campaigns in the 1960s, a response to the South African demand that teams touring South Africa “respect” South Africa’s apartheid system and select only white players for their national squads. South Africa’s response to that campaign was to grant “honorary white” status to Maori All Blacks, thereby allowing them to stay in the “Whites Only” team hotel, travel on the team bus etc, rather than use the inferior “Blacks Only” facilities they would normally have been restricted to. The activists leading the anti-apartheid movement saw this as mere window dressing” and argued that even a fully merit based South African team would not be sufficient to lift the boycott since the boycott was not really about sport, but a lever to use against the apartheid system as a whole. [Read more...]

(Gay) Marriage and (Queer) Marxism

Ian Anderson, Workers Party member

Internationally, demands for gay marriage are galvanising important mass movements. These movements develop from diverse origins: Australia’s Equal Love campaign regularly mobilises thousands, while same-sex marriage is one of the constitutional demands in Nepal’s ongoing revolutionary struggle. In countries such as Sweden and South Africa, activists have achieved the demand for gay marriage; in countries such as New Zealand, activists have achieved an equivalent in the Civil Union Act.

These achievements leave important question marks. The Civil Union Act did not grant adoption rights to same-sex couples; did not grant any rights to polyamorous relationships; both Civil Unions and marriages are fairly uncommon. Ultimately the new status quo leads many in the queer movement back to questioning marriage itself. Activists in Wellington’s newly formed Queer Avengers, which mobilised hundreds for its Queer The Night march, have discussed ‘repeal of the Marriage Act’ as a possible slogan. It’s important in this context to tease out the historical nature of marriage, and the arguments for marriage abolition. [Read more...]

Storming the pitch in Hamilton: 30th Anniversary of the Springbok Tour (public meeting)

Now with additional speaker, interim branch secretary for Mana Movement Hauraki/Waikato, Mihirawhiti Searancke. 

Big Left Radical Fair, Wellington, Sunday July 17

On the job: working harder, faster and longer in the fast food sector

This article was first published in the July issue of The Spark. It was contributed by a Christchurch Unite member, Joshua Wood.

In New Zealand we eat from at least one of the nine American fast food corporations that have opened shop here. We have little real choice about whether we want fast food in New Zealand or in our lives, as fast food is now becoming the fastest, largest and in some cases the cheapest food available.

But is working in fast food what the industry makes it out to be? The answer to that is a big fat NO it’s not.

I started my work in hospitality in 2006 in fast food. Moving around from fast food outlet to fast food outlet, one thing I noticed pretty fast is that they all expected the same from you; long hours, fast work, low pay, and a demand for you to come in with little or no notice on your day off or to start hours earlier than you where meant to.  Often half an hour or even 10 minutes before you finish you would be asked to stay longer sometimes with no real need for it.

The current hourly rate at the site worked at is $13 a hour, a large majority of fast food outlets make enough to cover wages within seconds of opening the doors. This is because the company’s investment (labour, plant, logistics, and advertising) on producing its commodities for sale is well below the cost at which it sells them. We who make and sell the products see little in return.

Fast food companies say they are poor and cant pay our staff anymore without cutting hours and making products more expensive, but this is obviously not the case.

A message for all you big bosses out there, stop  working us harder, longer and faster for the same pay , and to all workers your rights are under attack so stand up fight back and be heard.

Sunday July 17, Auckland contacts meeting

 Auckland WP contacts and supporters will be holding a day school/meeting this Sunday in Morningside, Auckland.

Existing members and contacts will be meeting from 10am till 4pm.

Anybody else interested in attending the first part of the day’s activity is welcome to attend to go over a discussion piece from 10am-12 noon. Whilst we do not adhere to all of its content, the discussion will be based on James P. Cannon’s ‘The revolutionary party and its role in the struggle for socialism’ which is viewable here: http://www.marxists.org/archive/cannon/works/1967/party.htm

Please contact Mike Kay on 021-288-5601 for venue details or to see if transport assistance is possible.

The Spark July issue insert – Mana Party foundation hui and Te Tai Tokerau by-election

  Access a printable version of The Spark July issue insert. Click here. 

This is a recently published version of an article which was previously posted here on this website. Containing minor changes, we are re-publishing it here in a format which supporters may use for distribution.

The Russian Revolution and National Freedom: How the early Soviet government led the struggle for liberation of Russia’s oppressed peoples

The following article, published on November 1, 2006, was written by John Riddell, then a co-editor of the now ceased Socialist Voicewhich was produced in Canada. We are publishing it in two parts. Part one, here, appeared in the July issue of The Spark and part two will appear in the August issue.

When Bolivian President Evo Morales formally opened his country’s Constituent Assembly on August 6, 2006,

Russian Bolshevik leader V.I Lenin, in 1919

he highlighted the aspirations of Bolivia’s indigenous majority as the central challenge before the gathering. The convening of the Assembly, he said, represented a “historic moment to refound our dearly beloved homeland Bolivia.” When Bolivia was created, in 1825-26, “the originary indigenous movements” who had fought for independence “were excluded,” and subsequently were discriminated against and looked down upon. But the “great day has arrived today … for the originary indigenous peoples.” (http://boliviarising.blogspot.com/1, Aug. 14, 2006)

During the preceding weeks, indigenous organizations had proposed sweeping measures to assure their rights, including guarantees for their languages, autonomy for indigenous regions, and respect for indigenous culture and political traditions.

This movement extends far beyond Bolivia. Massive struggles based on indigenous peoples have shaken Ecuador and Peru, and the reverberations are felt across the Western Hemisphere. Measures to empower indigenous minorities are among the most prestigious achievements of the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela.

At first glance, these indigenous struggles bear characteristic features of national movements, aimed at combating oppression, securing control of national communities, and protecting national culture. Yet indigenous peoples in Bolivia and elsewhere may not meet many of the objective criteria Marxists have often used to define a nation, such as a common language and a national territory, and they are not demanding a separate state. [Read more...]

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