The following interview is with Kassie Hartendorp (Wellington Workers Party branch organiser and Schools Out facilitator and chair of Queer Avengers). And Jason Frock (Wellington Workers Party branch education officer, Schools Out facilitator, and trainee-coordinator of the Wellington Gay Welfare Group and member of the Queer Avengers). Both have been in highly involved in the recent Queer the Night demonstration and in the formation of the Queer Avengers campaign organisation.
The Spark: What was Queer the Night?
KH: Queer the Night was a march organised in response to the day-to-day violence that members of the queer community face while in the streets. The fear of verbal insults and physical attacks is something queers constantly carry with them everywhere.
JF: The streets are especially dangerous places for queers. Twice as much near bars at night which are highly sexualised areas where concepts of ‘masculinity’ need to be protected. They are often impossible to pass without having aninsulthurled your way if you’re visibly gay. It was also becoming normalised in Wellington to have regular queer bashings. Within our own friend networks it was becoming roughly 1 every other month.
KH: The purpose of the march was to call-out the queer community for its general silence towards the pervasive homophobic and transphobic street culture. We wanted people to realise that “enough is enough” and to begin to think about how to collectively organise beyond the march itself and to actually fight our continued oppression.
JF:Homophobic and transphobic violence is something experienced by queer community as a whole, but the responses to it are generally acted upon at an individual level. We wanted to break that atomisation by having a visible, militantand proud march through the centre of town and opening up a place where queers can come together and talk about our social oppression.
KH: What we needed was a celebration, a big bang to break the silence. We needed a powerful event which could break through the general apathy towards collective action. We needed an event which would empower people to take ownership of the queer community.
The Spark: How did the march itself go?
JF and KH: Overwhelming success.
KH: The energy was amazing. For many of us it was the most militant march we’ve been on. There was a good turnout, of about 400 people. The militancy, size and feelwere much greater than the numbers. I’ve been on bigger marches that weren’t nearly as powerful. There were four official guest speakers; all were received well by the crowd. It was a very emotional and raw event. People were crying. Actually making the streets a queer space was a very powerful experience for people.
Marika Pratley , PFLP Solidarity Campaign Coordinator for Wellington and member of Vic Palestine Group
Over August Vic Palestine Group organised a series of events to create awareness and build support around Victoria University and Wellington for the Palestinian struggle. This included a film screening of Occupation 101, a Student Representative Council (SRC) on the right to education for Palestinians, a panel discussion on Israel and Palestine, and a fundraising gig to prepare for the photography exhibition “Unrecognised”, which is opened on Friday 19 August. Despite Zionists ripping down posters in an attempt to censor the campaign, there has been strong support and all events were well attended.
The SRC happened on the 29th of July in the Victorai University student union building, with over 140 people. The motion was put forward: “To affiliate to the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University as a public show of solidarity and support to all Palestinian students and teachers who are struggling to live,work and study under the illegal Israeli occupation.”, as part of the right2edu campaign*
John Minto from GPJA in Auckland was there to talk in support of the motion, and referenced the struggle of abolishing apartheid in South Africa as a reason for supporting the issue. There were also speakers from Vic Palestine, the Greens and other radical left organizations on campus. Debate on the motion was based mostly on people not understanding the need for international solidarity, rather than being Zionist supporters. However the outcome was an overwhelming majority of students in support of the right2edu campaign, and the motion was passed.
The SRC was followed by a panel in the first week of August. Nigel Parsons, a Political Scientist from Massey University opened the panel by discussing the Israel Palestine situation. Dr. Parsons used Foucault’s theory of Bio-politics as a basis fo discussing how the state functions in controlling people’s lives. He then proceeded to apply this through historical development of Israel, and how this control has impacted on the Palestinians as invidividuals and their community as a whole. He went onto discuss how the Oslo agreement relied on incorporating the PLO, leading to the Palestinian Authorities controlling their own resistance, and allowing for the development of settlements in the West Bank. He ended his talk pointing out that when demanding for ‘the right of state’ for Palestinians, its absolutely essential to consider what this means in practice, and what ‘type’ of state the Palestinians would be demanding.
This was followed by Hone Fowler from Kia Ora Gaza. He gave a skype presentation of photos from the Kia Ora Gaza convoy that visited Palestine in December last year, with other international organizations. Kia Ora Gaza are organising another group to go at the end of 2011 and are looking for volunteers.
The final part of the panel was presented by Nadia Rhiannon from Vic Palestine. She focused her talk on the experiences of Palestinian youth, and how they relate to the occupation. This included accounts of people in Palestine as well as her own experiences, being apart of the Palestinian diaspora that were born and raised outside of Palestine. She included example of how her cousin fell in love with an Israeli Conscientious objector, and what it feels like to have a displaced identity due to the denial of rights for the Palestinian community.
The final part of the Palestine Solidarity fortnight was a fundraising gig at Garett street in Wellington. This was done on behalf of the Concerned Citizens, to fundraise for a photo exhibition, which is intended to raise awareness of the UN meeting in September, which will decide whether or not Palestine will be recognized as a state. The photo exhibition is opening tonight in Wellington, and will be in the following cities on these dates.
Wellington – Garrett Street: 19th – 21st August
Dunedin – Tangente Cafe: 19th – 21st August
Hamilton – The Void: 19th – 21st August
Whanganui – The Arc Theatre: 19th – 21st August
Auckland – Te Karanga Gallery: 22nd August – 1st September
Gisborne – Dome Cinema: date TBC
East London (South Africa) – Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University: August-September
*Further information can be found at http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/
32 Indonesian fishermen previously working aboard the Korean fishing vessel Oyang 75 are currently ashore in Christchurch. These workers are seeking redress for unpaid wages and other violations of their rights. Government policy mandates that the same terms and conditions be given to workers on foreign charter vessels in New Zealand waters as to local citizens, but most members of the Indonesian crew are recieving annual incomes of between $6,700 and $11,600, well below the minimum wage.
The crew recently used what little money they have to appeal their looming deportation. Not currently working and not eligible for welfare in New Zealand the workers are reliant on donations of food and money. Workers Party Christchurch branch organiser Byron Clark and branch secretary Kelly Pope met with the crew on Saturday (Aug. 13) and delivered 20kg of rice donated from the Christchurch Workers Party branch and a bag of vegetables donated by the Okeover community garden.
“These young men- and I was surprised by how young they all are- really demonstrate the way migrant labour is exploited in New Zealand” said Clark. “These sailors suffered beatings, overwork, sexual harassment and inadequate pay while working in this country’s economic zone, and now the state wants to deport them before those grievances have been addressed”
The Workers Party is planning further solidarity work with the Indonesian crew. The Canterbury Indonesian Society is collecting donations for food and other expenses incurred by the crew, such as accommodation and the school fees of their children in Indonesia. they can be made to the account 12 3147 0278609 00 with the reference ‘Fishing Crew’.
By writers for The Spark
Workers Party members and branches were active in a range of events in July. In mid-July the Wellington branch had a good independent presence on semester two orientation day at Victoria University. This led into another event on Sunday July 17 – the Big Left Radical Fair – which was held at Crossways Community Centre in Mt. Victoria, Wellington. Workers Party member Joel Cosgrove who has helped to form ‘Mutiny’ – a local left networking group – was a key organiser of this event. It was attended by approximately 200+ people and 15 local organisations, including Palestine solidarity groups (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Wellington Palestine Group, and Students for Justice in Palestine), climate change groups, and other Marxist and anarchist groups.
For many of the people who attended this event it was their first exposure to radical politics. Cosgrove gave a speech on the topic ‘What is the Workers Party?’ The Queers Avengers – a recently formed GLBT group in which Workers Party members are participating – was another organisation that was represented at the fair (see interview page 8).
Also on Sunday July 17 Workers Party members in Hamilton and Auckland, plus party contacts/supporters, met for a day of study and political discussion. For the first part of the day the group studied a small work by American Marxist leader James P. Cannon. This was followed by an appraisal of the situation of the Workers Party in New Zealand and subsequent discussion. Time was assigned for the Mana Party/Movement to be discussed in the final session for the day. This was a serious political discussion about the political nature of the Mana Party and its class composition. The discussion also touched on aspects of Marxism and Maori liberation. It was very interactive as between six and eight young Mana activists asked if they could join in the discussion.
In Auckland and Hamilton Workers Party members have become involved in the Mana Party/Mana movement. In June of this year Workers Party members resolved that Mana is a Maori-led working class movement that our members would engage with in a constructive manner. In Auckland that has meant door-knocking and contributing towards policy ideas. In Hamilton Workers Party members and some rank-and-file workers are going about forming a workers’/socialist branch in Hamilton West with a view and proposal to look after Mana activity on a weekly basis at the Frankton markets and as such have been involved in Mana Hauraki/Waikato formative meetings so far, with one member being elected to the interim committee of that branch. Workers Party members in Hamilton also helped to organise for a GPJA-initiated (Global Peace and Justice Auckland) public meeting at the 30th anniversary of the anti-apartheid protest in Hamilton which stopped the game between the All Blacks and South Africa.
Auckland activist and musician Matt Billington played his Myth of Democracy acoustic set in Hamilton as a fundraiser for the Workers Party.
Byron Clarke has again been elected as branch organiser for the Workers Party’s Christchurch branch. Activity in Christchurch has continued to be limited because of the earthquakes and the heavy snowfall in the area.
The following is a small set of articles about the England riots published by Marxist organisations in the UK.
Committee for a Workers International (socialistworld.net): Inner cities erupt (10/8/11)
Socialist Worker online: Reports from the urban revolt spreading across Britain (10/8/11)
Revolutionary Communist Group: Eyewitness report of the Manchester uprising, 9 August 2011 (10/8/11)
Committee for a Workers International (socialistworld.net): Tottenham riots (8/8/11)
Large scale riots have spread through several cities of England in the past few days. Whilst much of the mainstream media has focussed on looting, some media reports – particularly those containing interviews – have shown some of the social context giving rise to the riots, including poverty and police brutality. The following links were compiled by Alastair Reith.
This article, compiled by writers for The Spark, looks at two anti-migrant events that occurred in July 2011 and asserts the necessity of defending migrant workers and advancing the socialist principle of open borders for working people.
Prime Minister John Key last month displayed an openly hostile attitude towards asylum seekers. The Elysia was carrying more than eighty Tamil asylum seekers who were detained by Indonesian maritime authorities near Sumatra. Many of those on the boat were videoed with hand written signs and New Zealand flags signaling that New Zealand is a desirable destination for them.
Key stated blankly, “Our very simple message is they are not welcome”. He continued, “It confirms what I’ve been saying for some time; it’s only a matter of time before large vessels, steel-hulled vessels capable of navigating their way to New Zealand… or far away parts of the world would try to make their way here. They would not be allowed into New Zealand.”
Key’s uncompromising position went further than other mainstream politicians – such as former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Key’s own immigration Minister Jonathon Coleman – who both asserted that it’s unlikely that such boats as the Elysia could make it down to New Zealand. It’s likely that Key’s position was driven by electoralism and an attempt to galvanise amongst non-liberal voters.
Some commentators though like to portray New Zealand as fair and decent. The Helen Clark-led government won some liberal sympathy when New Zealand took in some of the asylum seekers involved in the Tampa refugee ‘crisis’ in 2001. Such liberal sympathy towards that government was misplaced. In parts of Australia refugees are being kept in inhumane conditions for years in detention centers. It’s both morally deplorable and against the interests of working people. But the reality in 2001 and today is that the New Zealand government is in many respects worse than others. It accepts less asylum seekers than does Australia. It has a commitment to the UN to take up to only 750 refugees per year, a comparatively small number, and even then it usually accepts less.
Whilst New Zealand does have a tradition of deep conservatism, it doesn’t have strong traditions of fascism or right-wing extremism. The presence of the far-right in Europe has been highlighted by the terrible events in Norway.
The bombing of government buildings in Oslo which killed seven people was carried-out by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Brevik as a decoy to distract authorities whilst he went about massacring 85 young people and injuring a further 67 at a social democratic youth conference on Utoya Island. Being a right-wing extremist, he blamed the social democratic youth for contributing to what called ‘cultural Marxism’ and ‘Islamic colonisation’. Brevik’s ideology appears to be a blend of rightist conservatism and Nazism.
It is said that Brevik’s careful planning of the attack, including the financing of the attack, was carried out over a number years. This shows that he was a focused right-wing extremist, and it wasn’t the case that he is simply psychopathic. Whilst Brevik’s action is amongst the most extreme carried out by far-rightists in Europe in the post-war period, it shouldn’t be seen as a one-off act of violence.
Far-right activity carried out by boneheads and more organised right-extremists regularly occurs in Europe and in Russia. It consists of violence towards immigrants, leftists, and intellectuals, and has resulted in murders of immigrants. Organised groups on the far-right in Russia have achieved the capacity to execute people in the legal system who have prosecuted or convicted far-rightists.
What should be taken from both centre-right politicians like John Key and from far-rightists who are galaxies to the right of the political centre, is that the most predominant form of racism today is contained in theories against immigration. John Key displays none of the signs of a typical conservative racist. He works with the Maori Party and shortly before the Elysia asylum seeker saga he was touring India participating in sound-bite-sized activities which he probably hopes will shore-up support amongst conservative Indian voters in New Zealand. However, what we’ve seen from the ruling class in New Zealand is that it’s always at the ready to adjust its position on migrants when the economy contracts. Europe, which obviously doesn’t have the type of insulation as does New Zealand against the global financial crisis, is seeing heightened activity from the far-right. As Socialists, no matter what level of persecution is being meted out, we stand up for migrant workers and argue for them to have full access, full opportunity, and no lesser wages, conditions, or income than New Zealand-born citizens.
Heleyni Pratley, Workers Party, Wellington branch
In 1901 administration of the Cook Islands was handed over to New Zealand from the British with some conditions. One was that there would be no sale of land to New Zealand, with the British saying they were dissatisfied with the New Zealand government’s handling of Maori land. This meant that all Cook Islanders, including those living abroad, had land rights and native land in the Cook Islands which could not be bought or sold, except to the government for public purposes. In 1902 New Zealand set up a Land Court with the aim being to increase the commercial productivity of the land and to lease it to Europeans.
The New Zealand government believed that the native population was ‘dying out’ and it wanted Europeans to farm tropical produce for export to New Zealand. So the authorities leased land to Europeans while leaving ownership in the hands of Cook Islanders who would – according to their thought at the time – eventually disappear.
There are now approximately 130,000 Cook Islanders, and the vast majority had retained rights to their customary lands. Even those who left the Cook Islands still have land ownership and hundreds of people had rights to blocks of land.
But in 2009 new legislation was passed in regard land ownership called the Land Agents Registration Act 2009. The reason this new law needed to be passed was because the majority of the land in the Cook Islands was owned collectively by large families and community groups.
Why was this form of ownership a problem? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it right? Well it depends on who you are talking to on deciding whether this socialised ownership of land was working or not. It was working pretty well for the majority of Cook Island people but for the ruling class of the world who own big business and for government’s which look after those capitalist interests this was a big problem. Why? Well because if you don’t have an individual owner it makes it very hard to buy and strip all the assets and sell the land. And how can you build a Hilton hotel if you can’t buy the land to build it on?
In 2005 the World Trade Organization recommended that in order for pacific countries to grow ‘economically’ and become more like their ‘Asian Tiger’ counterparts ( Hong Kong, Tai Wan ), the individualising of land ownership would be an essential building block.
The 2009 law required that a family may nominate one single owner of the land and that this individual has the sole legal authority to lease the land with a maximum lease period of 60 years. If a family can’t decide which person to nominate then the government appoints someone.
From a market point of view, now the Hilton can be built on land that can be leased for very low rent. After the 50 year lease is up the family can have the land back on the condition that any assets that have been built on the land are bought as well. Pacific Island nations have a history of being dominated by imperialist powers that rip off the people. The New Zealand government is one of the worst culprits.
When Swedish born union organiser and radical song writer Joe Hill was executed in the United States in 1916, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) sent packets of his ashes all over the world- to every state in the US (except Utah where he died), Asia, Europe, every country in South America, Australia and supposedly, New Zealand. But were his ashes actually sent here? And if they were, what happened to them? Why is there so little historical record of their fate?
These are the questions that Jared Davidson sets out to answer in Remains to be Seen. After extensive research drawing on archival material, much of it previously unpublished, he concluded that while there is no “concrete evidence” of Joe Hill’s ashes arriving in New Zealand – or even being sent here in the first place – it is highly likely they were. While the IWW in New Zealand was on the decline in the later half on the 1910s (a result of state repression) there were many members who were still agitating and maintaining contact with the US IWW.
Ashes did arrive in Australia (though they were destroyed by police soon afterward in a raid on the Sydney IWW offices). At the time Australia and New Zealand shared the same postal shipping route which went to Sydney via Auckland so if the ashes were indeed sent here, chances are they arrived. The mostly likely scenario is that they were intercepted and destroyed by state censors.
Read the rest of this entry »