Greece: The simmering revolt

Mike Kay

Recent mainstream media reports on Greece have focused on the two general elections held in quick succession: the first, inconclusive; the second, a shaky win for the right wing New Democracy party, after voters were blackmailed into backing pro-austerity parties. But beyond the spectacle of parliamentary politics, Greece remains in simmering revolt, as the economic hardship ratchets up daily.

Union federations have called a number of general strikes, albeit with little in the way of a co-ordinated and on-going campaign to change the political game plan. A couple of disputes exemplify the militancy of workers who have had enough of being screwed. Employees at Greek Steel have faced down legal challenges and employer scab-herding to continue their struggle against job losses and cuts in pay. As the strikers put it: “we are not returning to a dangerous job that places at risk our lives for the pittance of 500 euros per month and without our 120 sacked work colleagues being reinstated”. Meanwhile workers at Phone Marketing have been on strike for over 100 days against demands by their employer to reduce them to working one day a week and being paid less than €200 a month.

On the political front, the emergence of a hard left coalition, Syriza has been remarkable. In 2009, it was polling 4.5%, but the most recent election gave it 27% of the vote, beating the social democratic Pasok party into third place. Whilst the leadership of Syriza is reformist, the coalition includes a large number of revolutionary groups. Where the revolutionaries stood independently (most notably in the Antarsya coalition) their results were disappointing. The other major force on the Greek left is the Communist Party, KKE, which remains die-hard Stalinist, has suffered a decrease in its vote, but retains a heavy base in the working class. [Read more...]

Queer Avengers call for a struggle “beyond marriage”

Originally published on GayNZ.

Wellington-based activist group The Queer Avengers is calling for a struggle “beyond marriage”, saying while it supports marriage equality, it’s not the end of the line for GLBT rights.

While the group supports Louisa Wall’s Bill to introduce marriage equality, it says the community still faces a number of obstacles.

Member Sara Fraser says these include bullying, suicide and homelessness among GLBT youth; inadequate access to quality healthcare for trans people; and common intimidation and violence in the streets.

She adds that there are many family structures which marriage and adoption law does not cover, for example polyamory and whangai adoption.

“This is not the final struggle,” Fraser says. “We’re looking ahead to the struggles beyond marriage.”

However when it comes to the marriage equality battle, the Queer Avengers are critical of MPs who are against it.

“Bill English says that equality is not a priority. Instead, National would like to focus on the important things, like making deals with casinos and scapegoating beneficiaries for the financial crisis,” argues Queer Avenger Ian Anderson.

“This government is more interested in cutting back rights than extending them.”

Anderson adds that equality is a matter of principle, not personal conscience. “If parties support the principle of equality, they should treat it as such. This is a basic civil rights issue. Conscience votes are a cop-out.”

An oral history of Occupy Christchurch

Byron Clark is based in Christchurch and is the current coordinating editor of The Spark. He has a BA in history from the University of Canterbury. This will be his first oral history project.

Recently I began fundraising for the equipment needed to record an oral history project on Occupy Christchurch, and subsequently publish that project in book which will be donated to Christchurch City Libraries, The Alexander Turnball Library, Archives New Zealand and the Canterbury Museum archive. Of course, copies of the book will be available to the public as well, and the whole project will be published online. The goal is to make the stories of Christchurch’s Occupy protesters as widely accessible as possible.

To raise the funds I am using the crowd-funding platform PledgeMe. Crowd funding provides a platform for projects to raise funds though a large group of people giving smalls amounts. With the money already raised, this project requires just a $5 donation - so long as that $5 donation is made 195 times by 195 people. Crowd funding has been made use of largely by creative people such as filmmakers and musicians, but has also been used for social movements. ‘Occupy the Movie’ is being financed through crowd-funding, as is the documentary adaptation of ‘The Spirit Level’ a book examining inequality.

What is oral history?

A basic definition of oral history is ‘the collection and study of historical information using sound recordings of interviews with people having personal knowledge of past events’. Beyond that, it is a form of ‘peoples history’ well suited to the Occupy movement. I have been asked on multiple occasions what qualifies me to write the history of Occupy Christchurch. My answer is that I am not writing the history but recording it. As someone involved in the movement I could write down my recollections but that would just be one person’s history, I plan to tell the stories of approximately one hundred people.

I have also been asked if I will be interviewing people who opposed the Occupy movement. I am interviewing people who were involved in the movement, this includes people who left on less-than-good terms and will no doubt result in a wide range of opinions being expressed thoughout the book. But I am not going to be interviewing people opposed to the movement from the outset. This could result in cries of bias or an unbalanced history, but I am not setting out to write a definitive history of Christchurch in 2011-2012, merely to add to the historical record.

Whatever voices are loudest in the present will also be the loudest in the history of this time. Opposition to Occupy came from politicians and media pundits- The Press the largest circulation newspaper in Christchurch printed an editorial stating the protesters should leave the camp site (and reprinted it several weeks later when they were still there) The opinions of the mayor and city councillors were also widely reported. Through no fault of historians, our recent history is already biased in favour of the powerful, whose voices are not just louder, they are amplified.

Local stories

I have also been asked why I am just doing this project about Occupy Christchurch, and not Occupy New Zealand. The main reason is the costs involved; the current fund raising target is to cover a broadcast-quality digital recorder and an initial print run of one hundred books. The travel costs, not to mention the necessary time off work, would make covering the whole country overly ambitious.

A possibility is that money made from book sales could be used for a grant to an oral historian in another city to conduct a similar project; of course this depends on demand for copies of the book.

The earthquakes that hit Christchurch over the last two years also make the story of its Occupy protest unique. With the central city uninhabitable, protesters were able to remain in their chosen location longer than other New Zealand occupations, and the housing crisis meant that the Occupy camp swelled with homeless who became radicalised as they mingled with socialists, anarchists and
others.

If you want to contribute toward this project, you can pledge at https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/Crowd/Details/313 there are ‘rewards’ available such as copies of the book, and the opportunity to be listed in the dedication as one of people who made it possible. If you are not in a position to pledge money, you can help out by spreading the word and helping reach people who can.

Queer Avengers discussion: beyond marriage

By writers for The Spark

On Thursday the 19th of July, at radical social centre 128 Abel Smith Street, Wellington group The Queer Avengers held a discussion on queer activism and marriage. With two MPs’ bills in the parliamentary ballot box, the Queer Avengers decided it was time to take a stance on the question of marriage equality.

Until recently the Queer Avengers have largely abstained from the marriage discussion, with views ranging from a full endorsement of marriage equality to rejecting the institution of marriage altogether. The group had concluded that while members have a range of views on marriage, there should be no legal distinction between same sex and different sex couples. This discussion meeting aimed to flesh that position out. [Read more...]

Solidarity with Coles workers (Australia)

Resistance comrades in Adelaide support Melbourne Coles Workers.

More information on Coles dispute:

Wellington event: CLASSE speaking tour

Guillaume Legault is a leading member of Quebec’s CLASSE — the Broad Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity — a radical student organisation at the forefront of a months-long student strike against tuition fee hikes.

Quebec’s student movement is still locked in struggle with the ruling Liberal government over the new fees. The government has responded with police repression and harassment of students. It also passed a new law that bans protests of more than 50 people unless police have given prior approval.

Guillame Legault is participating in a speaking tour across Aotearoa, hear him speak at 6pm on Thursday the 2nd of August, 19 Tory Street (Facebook event.)

Fear and Loathing in the Public Sector

Ben Jacobs, Wellington branch of the Workers Party

One aspect of the government’s spending that was not widely covered by the media at the time of this year’s budget announcements was the reduction in public sector spending by one billion dollars over the next three years. This comes on top of the sinking lid on the number of public servants and raft of more specific cuts made since the National party came to power.

The effect of these cuts has been an increase in the contracting out of public sector jobs, from operational to managerial functions. For example, when Bill English asked government departments to reduce spending by 10%, contractors became a much more attractive proposition – not only because they don’t have the same rights as permanent employees (such as sick leave, holiday pay and collective agreement coverage) but also because it’s much easier to hide this spending from the public eye. The impact of this is to increase the proportion of fixed term workers and reduce union coverage, whittling what remaining culture of solidarity exists in the head offices of government departments. [Read more...]

Wellington event: What is Marxism

In the era of Occupy, the Arab Spring, and the global financial crisis, the need for fundamental change is obvious to many. However this post-Soviet generation is understandably skeptical of many “Old Left” ideas and approaches.

Does Marxism serve a useful purpose, or is it an outdated label? How do we identify the wheat and the chaff, the baby and the bathwater? Should we aim to revive the Marxist method, historical materialism?

Talk by Workers Party member Ian Anderson, followed by discussion.

6pm, Tuesday 24th July, 19 Tory Street

Pacific migration: Climate change and the reserve army of labour

Ian Anderson

Climate change hits different regions in different ways. An area scattered with low-lying atolls, the Pacific is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Environmental migration must be a key consideration for socialists in this region.

Nations such as Tuvalu and Kiribati are already affected. Coastal erosion in Tuvalu, a nation comprised of atolls and reef islands, has already forced huge resettlement. Tuvalu has the second-lowest maximum elevation of any country, and it’s estimated that a sea-level rise of 20-40 centimetres could make it uninhabitable. By 2007, 3,000 Tuvaluans had resettled, most of them settling in Auckland. Kiribati is also vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather events; less than a week before the Kyoto Protocol was signed, a “king tide” devastated coastal communities.

Global warming: Responsibility and consequences
Radical labour organiser Utah Phillips is quoted as saying, “The Earth isn’t dying, it’s being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.” In this case the responsibility lies with the big polluters of imperialist nations, including Australia and New Zealand. With the exception of Nauru, which is subject to heavy phosphate mining by Australia, smaller Pacific nations emit far less carbon per capita than Australia and New Zealand.

While imperialist nations produce the bulk of emissions, the smaller nations of the Pacific will bear the brunt of anthropogenic climate change. As seen in Tuvalu and Kiribati, low-lying islands will be hit particularly hard. Along with sea level rise, climate change means health conditions such as heat exhaustion; depletion of fish stocks; and crop failure, in a region where many still live off the land. Oxfam Australia predicts up to 8 million climate refugees from the Pacific Islands, and 75 million climate refugees in the wider Asia-Pacific, over the next 40 years. [Read more...]

July 14th: Thousands march against asset sales

Auckland march

Christchurch march, photo credit: Jonathan van der Pennen.

Christchurch. Photo credit: Jonathan van der Pennen.

Previous coverage of asset sales and fightback:

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