Fightback 2017 summer conference report

Over the 14th and 15th of January, Fightback members converged in Wellington to plan our activities for 2017.

On the first day, Fightback and members of the wider community met to form a migrant and refugee rights coalition, aiming to intervene in the 2017 General Election in opposition to migrant-bashing. Watch this space for more information, and please email fightback.aotearoa@gmail.com if you would like to keep in the loop.

Over Day Two, Fightback held an internal meeting, and made the following commitments:

Electoral politics: Although Fightback remains open to the possibility of electoral alternatives, none of the current options are convincing. While Labour and the Greens each have a leadership captured by the right, MANA lost a lot of ground and credibility with 2014’s Internet Mana campaign.

Fightback disaffiliates from MANA, and does not collectively endorse any party in the 2017 New Zealand General Elections. Individual members may support parties on their own volition.

As previously mentioned, Fightback is initiating a broad coalition to challenge parties on migrant and refugee-bashing.

Syria: Fightback endorses the Syrian revolution, against the Assad regime and imperialist intervention, and for self-determination for the Syrian people, including the Kurdish struggle.  Fightback will investigate ways we can support Syrian solidarity in New Zealand, particularly through the magazine and website..

Programmatic unity: Fightback acknowledges the encroachment of right-wing populism since the Global Financial Crisis, and emphasises the following points of unity:

i) internationalism, in the sense of solidarity with ALL the oppressed (including all indigenous struggles) as opposed to picking sides in disputes between various oppressive capitalist states or trying to piggyback nationalist/xenophobic movements;

ii) pro-urban, pro-technology ecosocialism;

iii) egalitarian skepticism; authoritarianism and what used to be called “obscurantism” go hand in hand. Conspiracy theory is essentially elitist in that it appeals to a hidden secret truth known only by the In Crowd. Converely, respect for rights of ethnic/religious minorities, and for spiritual views where they don’t infringe on the rights of any group

iv) pro-queer, pro-trans, pro-sex worker, pro-sexual expression feminism.

Magazine: Fightback reached our goal of 100 subscribers in 2016. We will continue with quarterly schedule, publishing these issues in 2017:

Autumn magazine – Urban revolution and the right to the city – Daphne Lawless (coordinating ed)

Autumn pamphlet: What is Fightback? (coordinated by Ian Anderson)

Winter magazine – International issue – Ian Anderson (coordinating ed)

Winter pamphlet: Syria and the left (coordinated by Daphne Lawless)

Spring magazine – Tangata whenua issue – Kassie Hartendorp (coordinating ed)

Spring pamphlet: Migrant and refugee rights (coordinated by Ian Anderson)

Summer magazine – Electoral politics in 2017 – Ian Anderson (coordinating ed)

Summer pamphlet – What is Conservative Leftism? (coordinated by Daphne Lawless and Ian Anderson)

To subscribe and receive these publications for $20 annually, please click here.

Green Vomit and statistical nonsense: the lies you hear about immigration and the Auckland housing crisis

hanson-farage-trump

Uncomfortable bedfellows: NZ Greens’ James Shaw joins Pauline Hanson (Australia), Michael Gove (UK) and Donald Trump (US) in an international trend of xenophobic scapegoating.

 

Article by Tim Leadbeater. Reprinted from the International Socialist Organisation (Aotearoa/NZ).

A few days ago the Labour party announced a new policy of increasing police numbers by 1000. I groaned at this news but it didn’t really surprise me. Then yesterday I heard of the new Greens policy on immigration, with James Shaw calling for a drastic reduction in numbers. Is New Zealand First calling the shots here, aided and encouraged by a compliant and uncritical media happy to jump on the anti-immigrant bandwagon? The Greens and Labour will almost certainly need the support of NZF to form a government next year, and Winston really just hates those hippy-dippy lentil munching do gooders. James Shaw knows this, yet needs to send a very clear signal to Peters that the Greens are willing to compromise. Immigration is a hot topic, and Shaw can easily frame the issue in terms of “sustainablitity” and “infrastructure”. No need for racist dog-whistles or Chinese sounding surnames, this is Sensible and Practical Greens policy, easily digested by sensitive liberals turned off by the crude nationalistic appeals of NZF.

“We think that the country needs a more sustainable immigration policy, so what we’d do is set a variable approvals target based on a percentage of the overall population. That would be at about 1 percent of the population, which is historically how fast New Zealand’s population has grown.”

Mr Shaw says the policy would even out peaks and troughs in annual migration numbers.

“You’ve also got to cater for changes in infrastructure, and because our population has historically grown at about 1 percent the country is set up to absorb that,” he says.

“Suddenly double that number, and you’ve got a problem like we’ve got at the moment, where you actually can’t meet the demand.”

Hmmmm. Sounds sensible enough. It’s not that we are racist or anything mean and horrible like that, it is just that we have looked at it very carefully and the numbers just don’t add up. One percent is all that the infrastructure can handle – just look at the housing crisis for proof, even if we wanted to we just couldn’t build enough new houses that fast. The government isn’t switched on like we are, they are letting in huge numbers and now people are sleeping in their cars! Etc, etc.

Curious about this one percent growth claim, I searched for the population data on Statistics New Zealand and came up with this graph:

population-graph

It is sort of true that the New Zealand population has grown at around 1% per year, as you can see for the period from the 1990s up to 2015, the line fluctuates above and below 1%. If you were a statistician paid by Winston Peters you could cut the time period to 1980 and onwards, and very easily draw a steadily increasing trendline through the periodic peaks and troughs. Look! The line is going up, we don’t have enough houses! The line must be flat, we must flatten the line! One percent is an absolute maximum!

The really strange and scary thing is to consider just how New Zealand survived throughout those extreme and rabbit-warren like years after the second world war. Those baby boomers were just popping them out without any consideration for New Zealand’s fragile infrastructure, pushing 3% for a couple of years and then a period of about 20 years with that line well in the red zone (and it was so sudden! How did they cope?). Then there was that period in the late 60s and early 70s when the line went into the 2% Danger Zone for about 3 years. Those damn hippies, what were they thinking?

Cheering for the Greens new anti-immigrant stance, Martyn Bradbury from the Daily Blog conjures conjures up some even more gratuitously false statistics to make the case:

Here is the grim truth about our current immigration settings. It’s not the 70,000-90,000 who become permanent residents that we need to be concerned about and it’s not their families joining them that we need to be worried with either, the real problem is our scam work/study visa scheme that sees 250 000 desperate students coming to NZ for bullshit ‘education’ programs that end up as bonded servitude with exploitative employers who hold onto their passports.

These 250 000 work hard jobs, many on less than minimum wage and pay tens of thousands for education schemes that are glorified english courses all for the promise of becoming permanent  residents.

A quarter of a million students paying tens of thousands of dollars to learn English, and getting exploited at the same time by ruthless bosses! And all of them putting massive stress on our infrastructure! They’ll never ever go back to where they came from because their bosses have stolen their passports!! We’ll be doing the country a favour as well as fighting for worker’s rights if we just stop them staying here! A double whammy:

We need to stop exploiting these people and stop promising them permanent residence via education. If they wish to come here for education, fine, that’;s their decision, but putting in place the pathway from education or employment to residency is exploitative and creating huge pressures on an infrastructure that can’t take anymore.

When I first read this blog I was struck by the twisted moral “logic” of Bradbury’s anti-immigrant stance. Like James Shaw, he wants to save the ‘infrastructure’ from the hordes of foreigners swamping our fair land. But he wants to present this as simultaneously saving the immigrants from exploitative bosses. If only they knew how exploitative and nasty kiwi bosses were, they would never have come in the first place. (Working conditions in places like India, of course, being obviously superior). I started pondering the strange and only barely coherent motivations for this ‘argument’, then my head started to hurt so I gave up. What then struck me was Bradbury’s figures. Where on earth did he get that figure of 250,000 ‘desperate students’?

He links to another blog by Mike Treen, which states that “250,000 people are granted student or temporary work visas each year.”. There are no sources given for any of these numbers, so I dug around the Statistics New Zealand and MBIE sites for up to date data. Treen’s figure of 250,000 is most likely based on data for the 2014/2015 year, in which 84,856 international students were approved for New Zealand courses, and 170,814 people were granted a work visa.

Let’s start with the temporary work visas. It is difficult to know exactly how many of these people are or were international students. There are several categories of temporary visa, and a set of complex rules and regulations surrounding each category. I didn’t spend enough time on this problem to come up with an exact number, but I did take note of the clearly spelt out fact that the biggest single source country of those gaining temporary work visas was the UK. And the fact that the biggest visa category (61,404 people) was ‘Working Holiday Schemes’ (think backpackers). How many people were granted visas in the ‘Work to Study’ category? Exactly 13,688. There are other categories international students might have applied under, but this is the most obvious candidate.

How about those 84,856 international students? Again I didn’t dig long enough in the data to work out how many of these students worked, or intended to work after studying. Fairly obviously the 18% of them who were under 16 will not be working, which leaves us with 69,582 who might get part time work alongside their studies. There is no denying that for a significant chunk of these international students (and ex-students), exploitative and often illegal work practices are a major problem. But the numbers involved are nowhere near the idiotically false figure of 250,000 which Bradbury confidently puts forward without any reservations.

Are these just careless mistakes made a by blogger who thrives on the hot air of passing controversies, or is there something else going on here? I’m aware that Bradbury operates a blog rather than an academic journal, but the brazen sloppiness regarding statistics is surely a big issue. The internet allows you to check numbers very quickly and easily, so why not back up your statistics with actual sources?

There are definitely some impressive numbers out there which at first glance appear to back up the argument for cutting immigration. According to Statistics New Zealand, surely a source far more credible than Bradbury’s blog or Green Party press releases, Auckland’s population grew by a massive 2.9% in the 2014 – 2015 year. This growth accounted for over half of the population growth for the entire country. Alongside these facts it would not be a difficult task to present a series of familiar and undeniable truths about the problems with Auckland’s infrastructure: the housing crisis, inadequate public transport, congested roads and so on. Shortly after the release of this data in July 2015, there was a Stuff article with the headline “NZ migration boom nears 60,000 a year, as Indians and returning Kiwis flood in”. Like many other similarly hysterical media reports, immigration is presented as a major causal factor of the housing crisis. With almost no attention given in the mainstream media to alternative points of view which question this received wisdom, the truth of the claim ‘immigrants cause housing crisis’ has apparently become established through constant repetition. In this environment, it is possible to make outlandishly false statistical claims about immigration without stirring any controversy.

The most insightful piece I have read about this issue is Peter Nunns’ transport blog article ‘Why is Auckland Growing?’. Nunns points out that net migration is extremely volatile, being dependent on both the numbers of Aucklanders leaving for places such as Australia and the numbers of people coming in from overseas. Much more constant and statistically significant is the natural population increase due to Aucklanders having babies. If we can get past the hysteria of the 2015 figures and look at the past 24 years for a broader and more robust view of the situation, the statistics tell a different story: in 18 of those 24 years, natural increase was a bigger contributor to growth than net migration. The significance of this is that even if regulations on immigration were tightened considerably, overall long term population growth would be roughly the same as if the status quo rules remained. Nunns demonstrates this with a simulation comparing a projected Auckland population growth with a 50% reduction of net migration to one without such a reduction. His prediction is that by the year 2043, the 50% reduction version of Auckland would have a population of about 2.1 million, whereas the status quo Auckland would have a population of about 2.2 million. The conclusion he draws is that Auckland faces some major tasks around preparing its infrastructure for population growth, so it needs to do things like build more houses. Cutting immigration is simply not a solution.

I can’t resist another conclusion: none of this pedantic analysing of facts and figures really matters all that much. What does matter is all those times you get on board an Auckland train in the morning and there are no seats left, and you are surrounded by lots of Indian and Asian young people. When you get on the bus and have to listen to all those conversations in Chinese. Then you get off on Dominion Road and basically every sign is written in Chinese, and they don’t even bother translating them into English. All those bright and hard working Asian students who get most of the academic prizes in the secondary schools. These very pertinent experiences and anecdotes build on each other, so when you read the outlandish and ridiculous sentence “the real problem is our scam work/study visa scheme that sees 250 000 desperate students coming to NZ for bullshit ‘education’ programs that end up as bonded servitude with exploitative employers who hold onto their passportsyou don’t even blink, it just sounds about right.

As a socialist I am for internationalism, solidarity and a world without borders. In this article however I have restrained myself from using any of the perspectives, values or arguments which inform these positions. The mainstream left in New Zealand appears to be lacking in both statistical literacy and the spirit of the famous phrase ‘Workers of the World, Unite!’. If we can’t communicate to them the spirit of solidarity, the least we can do is point out their mathematical failure.

Fightback changes structure to prioritise media work

On January the 16th-17th 2016, Fightback members convened at Tapu te Ranga marae in Wellington, to discuss the future of the organisation.

This was a crucial conference for Fightback. Recognising how thin we are on the ground, Fightback members opted for a constitutional restructuring, dissolving the national representative committee and branches, in favour of a media project with a socialist programme.

This decision was not taken lightly. Fightback members continue to seek the formation of a broader socialist organisation. However, we have decided to prioritise necessary areas of work. Our crowdfunded Women and Gender Minorities issue in 2015 was a success we aim to build on.

This does not mean an end to political activities. As individuals we are involved in trade unions, feminist organising, anti-war action, and various forms of work. As a collective, Fightback develops propaganda that seeks to link this wider work with a socialist programme.

While social media platforms are useful for rapid and wide communication, we continue to publish a magazine in order to develop a socialist constituency and local analysis. In 2016, Fightback is moving to a quarterly magazine schedule, with the following issues planned:

  • Neoliberalism and the Left (March issue), edited by Daphne Lawless
  • Youth Issue (June issue), edited by Kassie Hartendorp
  • Pasifika Issue (September issue), edited by Leilani Viseisio
  • Capitalist Elections and Socialist Strategy (December issue), edited by Ian Anderson

We will also launch original pamphlets, concerning Socialism and Māori Sovereignty, Mental Health and Capitalism, and finally Queers and the Capitalist Media. We will hold launches for these publications in Wellington and Auckland, and establish a Patreon for ongoing crowdfunding. Please get in touch or subscribe if you want to support this work.

In defence of the ‘user pays youth generation’

According to a US survey, 49% of millenials view socialism favourably.

According to a US survey, 49% of millenials view socialism favourably.

By Ian Anderson, Fightback.

The Daily Blog’s Martyn Bradbury recently posted an article seeking to characterise John Key’s electoral appeal. Bradbury contends that Key appeals to a ‘user pays youth generation’:

This empty aspiration appeals to a user pays youth generation who have no idealogical [sic] compass, and is best expressed through the naked narcism [sic] of Key’s son.

Bradbury has used the specific phrase ‘user pays youth generation’ before. In August 2015, the Daily Blog posted another article attempting to characterise Key’s base, with a nearly identical paragraph on the apparent superficiality of millenials:

[Key appeals] to our anti-intellectualism… He’s so laid back he burns books on his BBQ. This empty aspiration appeals to a user pays youth generation who have no idealogical [sic] compass, and is best expressed through the naked narcism [sic] of Key’s son.

Bradbury is right to suggest that Key’s PR-guided personality appeals to a certain Kiwi anti-intellectualism, a blokey ‘she’ll be right’ attitude in the context of the global financial crisis. National is supported by the rich, and by insecure middle-class folks relying on the property boom – which raises the question, how many people in their 20s own houses?

Although Bradbury may have a point about Key’s media-savvy philistinism, he’s wrong to imply that Key’s base is primarily young. While Young Nats offer a horrifying spectacle of privileged self-indulgence, this does not represent most ‘millenials.’ According to early voting statistics from 2014, students voted for a change of government, with Labour-Green-Internet Mana at a combined total of around 50%, and National votes at 37% (around 10% lower than the national average). This doesn’t say anything special about Kiwi millenials: youth generally tend to be progressive. According to a US survey, 49% of millenials view socialism favourably.

National’s electoral strength can be explained not only by who votes for them, but who doesn’t vote at all. 2011 saw the lowest turnout since the 19th century, and 2014 wasn’t a significant improvement. The ‘missing million’ of non-voters is comprised largely of youth, migrants, tangata whenua, poor and working-class citizens – the demographics most likely to vote left.

Surveys of non-voters reveal that they are more likely to cite disengagement (eg “my vote wouldn’t have made a difference”) than a perceived practical barrier (eg “I couldn’t get to a polling booth”). After 30 years of neoliberal assault and entrenchment by successive Labour and National governments, it’s unsurprising that so many are disenfranchised.

Generational narratives about ‘millenials’ and ‘Baby Boomers’ do in some ways resonate with lived experience. For example, I was born in 1988, during the reign of the Fourth Labour Government. Although Pākehā and relatively well-off, I was born into a world of privatisation, declining real wages, and ballooning private debt. Since leaving home I’ve only worked short-term casualised jobs, and lived in poorly maintained flats. If I’m part of a ‘user pays’ generation, I owe this in large part to Baby Boomers like Phil Goff, who introduced student loans (after getting through university with a universal student allowance). With a $40,000 student loan, I’m not inspired to vote for a party that recently promoted Goff as a potential Prime Minister.

However, generational narratives can also also conceal reality. Baby Boomers, in general, did not implement neoliberalism: a global minority carried out this assault. Many more resisted; thousands of leftists killed by Pinochet’s regime in Chile; thousands of miners in Thatcher’s England; and those of my parents’ generation who unsuccessfully fought a sudden, disorientating wave of restructuring initiated by the Fourth NZ Labour Government. I was raised with the idea that “socialism was a nice idea that didn’t work” – that there is no alternative – and didn’t come to understand this history until well into adulthood.

Reactionary complaints about the apathetic ‘selfie generation’ also conceal more than they reveal. My generation saw perhaps the largest ever global mobilisation, against the Iraq War, a mobilisation that did nothing to stop that military assault. This perception of political powerlessness, this sense that there is no alternative, seems more likely to discourage youth from political participation than the ability to take pictures with our phones.

A Baby Boomer coined the phrase ‘don’t trust anybody over 30,’ and in a certain sense he was wrong. Older radicals offer a reminder that not everyone grows conservative with age. Any socialist alternative to Labour and National’s business-as-usual will require the intergenerational self-organisation of workplaces, universities and communities. Otherwise, a privileged minority of millenials will find themselves managing a violent social system much like the one they were born into – likely dooming the species to extinction.

The kids aren’t alright, but generational warfare is a distraction. Capitalism remains the enemy.

See also

AKL Event: Fightback Climate Crisis Magazine Launch

2015-11-29 16.01.34

None of New Zealand’s current political parties are willing to do what it takes to put us on the path to climate safety and justice. All of them –including the Green Party – are wedded to capitalism, prioritising profit over people and planet.

“Market forces” are what got us into this climate mess and market-based mechanisms like “emissions trading” are only making it worse. The ETS just means rich countries “exporting” their polluting industries to low-wage countries such as China and India. But it has no impact on the consumer economy which drives polluting technologies.

We need green, liveable, sustainable cities, agriculture and natural areas. We need a sustainable future and “green jobs” for all people who want them. We need an end to motorway madness and fossil-fuel addiction. We need our water and power taken back into public hands. And we need partnership between Māori, Pākehā and immigrant communities to make this happen.

Fightback is a nationwide socialist group seeking to build a nationwide Ecosocialist Network, to discuss and promote a post-capitalist, sustainable future for Aotearoa/New Zealand.

7pm, Monday December 7th
Grey Lynn Community Centre, Auckland
[Facebook event]

ecosocialist network march

CHCH Fightback Reading Group #6: The Limits of Utopia

limits of utopia

This week our reading is a piece by fantasy author and marxian socialist China Miéville – “The Limits of Utopia.”

If you prefer listening to reading, the piece is based on this speech.

The piece discusses on the one hand, the need for utopian thinking in an era of ecological devastation – but also the dangers of environmentalism that can empower those who profit from the exploitation of the planet’s resources. Miéville’s language is a bit verbose, but in a creative rather than technical way so hopefully people will enjoy some of the more bombastic passages.

“The stench and blare of poisoned cities, lugubrious underground bunkers, ash landscapes… Worseness is the bad conscience of betterness, dystopias rebukes integral to the utopian tradition. We hanker and warn, our best dreams and our worst standing together against our waking.

Fuck this up, and it’s a desiccated, flooded, cold, hot, dead Earth. Get it right? There are lifetimes-worth of pre-dreams of New Edens, from le Guin and Piercy and innumerable others, going right back, visions of what, nearly two millennia ago, the Church Father Lactantius, in The Divine Institutes, called the ‘Renewed World’.”

We thought this reading would be beneficial in as it’s a couple days before the People’s Climate Parade in Christchurch which Fightback is supporting. The need for anti-capitalist analysis of the climate crisis is essential, especially while the vast majority of Enviro orgs rush to court the middle ground – and are unwilling to challenge the structural causes of ecological degradation.

-Koha appreciated
-Food provided
-All welcome
-Reading beforehand encouraged but not required

6:30pm, Thursday 26th November
59 Gloucester Street, Workers Educational Association, Christchurch
[Facebook event]

Christchurch Fightback Branch Launch + Potluck + AGM

fightback banner

Fightback in Christchurch has been operating smoothly in an ad hoc way for a while now but it’s time to formalise a branch in order to have processes to keep our organising, activities, and upcoming events going smoothly.

We’re opening this event up to non-members and close contacts who are interested in coming along, having some discussion and sharing some food. We’ll have information about what Fightback is and does available, as well as copies of our magazine.

Agenda:
1) Election of branch positions
-Branch organiser
-Secretary
-Treasurer

2) People’s Climate March discussion.

3) Discussion of Internal Conference to be held in Wellington, 16/17 of January.

4) Discussion + brainstorming of Educational Conference to be held in Christchurch 15/16/17 July, 2016.

5) General discussion of activity to pursue in Christchurch

We’re also including a potluck element so bring food to share if you are able – but don’t worry if not, plenty will be provided by the (soon to be) branch.

Attendees are under no obligation to join – the AGM is a necessary process of the organisation but we thought it’d be a good opportunity to open up some discussions about what we can be doing in Christchurch.

Hope to see you there!

TONIGHT (Thursday October 29th), 6:30pm
59 Gloucester St, WEA, Christchurch
[Facebook event]

Christchurch: Fightback study group

revolutionary fist

Fightback Christchurch would like to welcome all those interested to be involved with our recently formed, regular, radical study group. Fightback is acting as facilitator for the study and discussion of radical theory – both leading and presenting discussions, and inviting participants to recommend and lead study of ideas they have found useful or profound.

We meet fortnightly at the WEA Canterbury Workers Educational Association (59 Gloucester Street) starting from September 24th at 6.30pm [Facebook event]

All are welcome to attend, and reading ahead of time is not required to be involved as we will cover key elements of the reading in our sessions. As many of us lead busy lives and attending meetings like this can be difficult, we are also providing food to make attendance easier. We also aim to make our events child friendly and welcome any advice to make for a more accessible and nourishing environment.

Koha is greatly appreciated to help with the cost of room hire. We will also have our magazine ‘Fightback’ available at all meetings for purchase.

If you would like to be involved, included on emails about events in Christchurch, or want to know more about the events contact: fightback.chch@gmail.com or 021 155 3896

Theory is a tool for our collective liberation, and if you are interested in learning and discussion please join us!

Audio: Where To For The Left (AKL event)

Panel discussion with Sue Bradford (Left Think Tank), Michael Treen (UNITE Union), Daphne Lawless (Fightback) and Jonathan King (Auckland Action Against Poverty)

Sue Bradford:

Mike Treen:

Daphne Lawless:

Discussion:

WGTN action tomorrow: No NZ support for war in Iraq or Syria

lest we remember

Join Peace Action Wellington on Thursday the 26th at 5pm next to the Cenotaph to show our opposition to New Zealand’s support for war in Iraq and Syria.

This is part of Peace Action Wellington’s Lest We Remember campaign opposing the hijacking of ANZAC day to promote yet another war in the Middle East.

As the country gets ready to commemorate the loss of thousands of New Zealand lives 100 years ago at Gallipoli, the government is preparing to commit us to another brutal intervention in Iraq – a war that the American government expects “could last years.”

Today’s government is now discussing a joint ANZAC military force, despite publicly committing itself to no more than a “training team” compared with Australia’s promise to the United States of fighter bombers and a 200-strong elite SAS fighting force.

The NZ Defence Force is training its soldiers for the Middle East combat “just in case.”

Gallipoli was a bloodbath. 131,000 young men were killed.

The US invasion of Iraw in 2003 was a bloodbath, 171,000 were killed, and 30,000 have been killed since America’s withdrawal.

Both wars were avoidable. Both were wrong.

Oppose New Zealand involvement in the current conflict.

[Facebook event]