Why have women left the Occupy movement?

Byron Clark, Coordinating editor of The Spark

The Occupy movement began as a movement championing the “99%” united against the 1% of the world’s population that control a disproportionate amount the worlds wealth. A possible flaw in this is that oppression is not as simple as a 99:1 ratio and exists within the working class and even within social movements. A movement that saw an even gender balance when it arrived in New Zealand last October saw the number of women involved dwindle to just a hand full. The Spark asked women currently or previously involved in the movement why they thought so many women left. Their responses are printed here. Some names have been changed for privacy reasons. [Read more…]

Occupying an impasse: learning from mistakes?

All great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice… first as tragedy, then as farce.

-Karl Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

October 15th has a double significance in this country, as both the day of the 2007 invasion of the Ureweras, and the day the global ‘Occupy’ movement arrived here in 2011. On October 15th 2011 thousands were mobilised across the country; turnout in Auckland was particularly impressive, while the hundreds who showed up in other centres were largely new to ‘the usual suspects’ (such as myself.) Smaller occupations cropped up in New Plymouth, Marton, Invercargill and elsewhere, showing the resonance of this new political language.

Numbers have fluctuated since. Commentary by Socialist Aotearoa accuses the left of ‘vacillating,’ however the reality is that occupiers have vacillated in general; while Occupy Auckland mobilised thousands on its first day, its current battle with attempted eviction involves a relative hard core. We have to learn from this downward trajectory: what happened and why? [Read more…]

Occupy Christcurch open university

day of free workshops on Sunday, February 12th in South Hagley Park.

An initiative of Occupy Christchurch

10am: Occupy Movement and Local Issues

How can we develop the Occupy Movement to be an effective political and social force in Christchurch and Canterbury?

11am: Situationism & post situationism

The Situationist International, having been cited as an inspiration for  OWS, deserve a second look. While aspects of the SIs’ pre-68 analysis and even modified lessons from the May-June ’68 “evenements” themselves have been seamlessly integrated into OWSs’ processes, as the general assembly, strictly mandated “working group” sub committees and so on, using information readily available on the web, I think there are lessons in the underreported years ’69 to 2010 that haven’t been looked at yet.

12pm: Cooking with Bartman

A cooking lesson from one of Occupy Corners resident chefs



A workshop to develop skills and understanding of the role of facilitation in consensus based groups. Discussion will cover decision-making tools, active listening skills, hierarchy, participation, and working together. Facilitator – Joanna Wildish.


The issue of the oppression of women in our society is one that every social movement should be engaging with. This workshop will be a space for discussion of feminist issues.

4pm: Mental Health

With mental illness effecting one in five people, mental health is a topic we need to engage with. Discussions on the relationship between capitalism, activism and mental health, and sharing of information to challenge stigma and discrimination onsite will be the basis of this workshop.

5pm: The Mechanics of Capitalism

How does capitalism work? Topics covered will be the class nature of society, exploitation, hegemony and more.

Occupy Nigeria leads to general strike

Despite its obvious inspiration in the Arab Spring, the global Occupy Movement is most prominent in relatively wealthy countries. This does not mean the movement has not appealed to those in the global south- often Occupy protests have not taken place in these countries because social movements with their own identities were already in progress when people in New York started camping out on Wall Street. Rather than being sneered at however the Occupy Movement has been welcomed as a showing of solidarity. Indian activist Arundati Roy  told an audience in New York;

“The Occupy movement has joined thousands of other resistance movements all over the world in which the poorest of people are standing up and stopping the richest corporations in their tracks. Few of us dreamed that we would see you, the people of the United States on our side, trying to do this in the heart of Empire. I don’t know how to communicate the enormity of what this means.”

The show of solidarity with activists in the developing and under developed world could be why socialists and labour activists in Nigeria decided to adopt the name ‘Occupy Nigeria’ for the protests they began in January this year.


There are many reasons for Nigerians to protest. Despite being one of the worlds biggest oil exporters (the largest in Africa) much of the population lives on less than US$2 a day. Corruption is rife in the government, infrastructure is badly maintained and food prices are on the rise. Despite all this, mass protests were not expected by many commentators. “even though Nigeria is just a few hours flight from Egypt or Libya, no one believed for a moment that the winds of change would reach Africa’s most populous nation.” wrote Michael Bociurkiw, a Canadian journalists who was in Nigeria during the Arab Spring.

That all changed when the Nigerian government announced on January 1st that it was ending a fuel subsidy resulting in a doubling of fuel and transport prices. The result of this was that many Nigerians could not afford to get to work, or power the generators that are relied on because of a blackout prone electricity system, The ending of subsidized fuel was the spark that set things aflame .

Protests and general strike

Following the announcement protesters shut down petrol stations and blockaded highways. Nigerias union movement called for an indefinite general strike on January 9th. Chris Uyot of the Nigeria Labour Congress told the BBC “We have the total backing of all Nigerian workers on this strike and mass protest”. Thousands gathered daily in Gani Fawehinmi Park in Lagos. The gathering in the park featured speeches by labour leaders and civil society activists, as well as, artists’ performances.

After a week the general strike achieved a partial victory, with president President Goodluck Jonathan announcing a cut in fuel prices, although it fell short of the previous subsidy.

The role of imperialism

The reason behind the ending of fuel subsidies was repaying public debt. Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, visited Nigeria in December and around the same time the World Bank sent its executive director Nguzi Okonjko-Iwela to take over as the country’s  finance minister. She was also made co-ordinating minister of the economy, a portfolio created especially for her.

Nigeria has borrowed vast amounts of money to fund the infrastructure required to obtain and export its oil reserves, yet it sees very little of the wealth the stems from the oil industry. Much of the media converge has pointed out the cost the general strike has had to the economy- estimates range in the billions- but rarely is it noted that the average Nigerian hasn’t missed out on any of this money, instead the ones missing out are Shell, Chevron, Agip and Total.

Further reading: Occupy Nigeria Takes On Nigeria’s Occupiers

Video: Marama Davidson on Occupy Auckland

Occupied Dominion Post: Lockout and Occupation

by Ian Anderson, originally published in Occupied Dominion Post Issue 5

On the 15th of October 2011, comrades in around 1500 cities rallied together on a global day of action inspired by Occupy Wall Street, resisting corporate greed. Four days later on the 19th of October, local corporation ANZCO locked out 111 union members at its CMP plant in Marton, demanding that they accept pay cuts of 20-30% before returning to work. The lockout and the occupation have each lasted nearly two months, and bonds of solidarity are forming.

ANZCO embodies the disparity in power and wealth which occupiers seek to redress. The company posts turnover of over $1.3bn. Sir Graeme Harrison, Chairman of the Board, was recently knighted and lives comfortably on Oriental Parade. All of this wealth is produced at plants such as CMP Rangitikei, by the workers currently under threat.

ANZCO is jointly owned by local capitalists and overseas investors. Its tactic of cutting wages to stay competitive is typical of recent trends; real wages in New Zealand have declined 25% over the past 3 decades. Many workers at CMP Rangitikei raise families, and can’t afford to have their wages cut by 30% in a period of rising prices.

However ANZCO is not just attempting to cut costs, they are also attempting to undermine our collective power. Before issuing the lockout notice, the company individually contacted many workers and offered them individual (rather than collective) contracts, in exchange for keeping their jobs. This is an attempt to smash the Meat Workers Union itself. However the dispute plays out, it will send an important signal to organized labour, to protest movements, and to the 1%. We cannot afford to let them take our collective power, to pick us off.

[Read more…]

Just a bunch of hippies?

Byron Clark

A man with long blonde dreadlocks leads a procession of about 140 other people down am almost carless street. The crowd is predominantly young, cosmopolitan in its make up, and colourful in its outfits. Some sort of parade? No, the blonde dredlocks are under a hardhat, which complements the high visibility jacket and steelcap boots. This man works as a labourer in Christchurch’s red zone, part of the highly casualised and underpaid workforce that has been demolishing damaged buildings and making the city safe for new ones. He has been asked by the others in the group to lead up front in his PPE gear to symbolise what the protest is about. Its Labour day, and Christchurch is experiencing its first Labour day march is years (possibly decades) and it was organised by the Occupy Movement.

At the end of the march an open mic is held. A university graduate talks about how he is working two jobs but still under a mountain of debt. A young woman talks about an injury she sustained as a result of understaffing in a previous workplace. A number of young workers tell similar stories, and a member of the Nurses Organisation tells the assembled crowd that she will do what she can to get her union to endorse this movement. Two other unions- Unite and the RMTU- already have.

While a number of different view points and ideologies are present in the occupy camps (and in the much larger groups that attend the protests they call) this movement is at its core one based on class. The occupy protesters around New Zealand have raised hundreds of dollars for the locked out meat workers employed by Canterbury Meat Packers, and in Christchurch a lively picket was held. The people who are camping in public spaces know which side they’re on when a company attempts to cut staff pay by 30% and uses a lockout to achieve this.

[Read more…]

Safer Spaces in the Occupy Together movement

article by Ian Anderson and Stacey Nylund, originally published in Issue 5 of the Occupied Dominion Post.

How can we be together in a unity that is not simplistic, that is not oppressive, that is rather complex and emancipatory?

-Angela Davis, Occupy Wall Street

By occupying spaces in the middle of major cities, we all take risks. We’ve seen the women maced on Wall Street, the mounted division charging in on Occupy Melbourne; we’re aware that eviction is a possibility, relieved when it’s averted; these are necessary risks to make our statement.

But there are other risks associated with this movement, internal rather than external threats. Reports of rape in Cleveland and Glasgow circulate online. Occupiers in Wellington debate how to react to the presence of fascists in the city, and potentially at the occupation itself. It’s become increasingly obvious that by including those who behave oppressively, we automatically exclude others.

[Read more…]

Occupy Wellington: what is the 99?

Sunday: 13/11/11 2:30pm

Free University,
Jack Illiot Green,
Civic Square
Wellington, New Zealand

What is the 99%?
Who is the 99%?

Possibly the best agitational slogan to come forward in the past 30 years from the left, too often in the occupy upsurge this idea has been taken at face value, something which undermines the slogan itself. The 99% represents decades of struggle and thinking around the idea of the haves and the have nots, workers and capitalists, the many and few. If we are going to make full use of the powerful potential contained within the idea represented by the 99%, then we need to know what it means, to discuss and understand the connotations and challenges that are summed up in such a pithy statement.

This is a public workshop as part of the Free University being held on Sunday.

Occupied Dominion Post: first sitting of the People’s Parliament

Originally published in Issue 3 of the Occupied Dominion Post.

Friday 11.11.11 is the first sitting of the Participatory Peoples’ Parliament at 5:30pm.

It’s about democracy for the people, by the people. So join the G7 Billion!

Followed by a weekend of:

2:30: Global Occupy Rundown
3:30: General Assembly
5:30: Music

Real free-trade
11am: Revolution in the Middle East (Tali Williams)
Midday: The Situation in Africa (Yilma Tasere)
1pm: What is the 99% (Joel Cosgrove)
2pm: Occupied Europe (Paco)
3pm: Music