Fightback plans for 2015 and beyond

Fightback members gathered in Akaroa over the weekend of the 23rd-25th of January, to discuss the future direction of the organisation. Although turnout was certainly modest, participants made a number of resolutions which we hope will provide a firm strategic basis for Fightback’s work in the coming period.

Programme

The conference resolved that Fightback is based on a political programme, which is not only a set of goals for social change but a plan of action to bring them around. Fightback seeks alliances with other progressive forces and organisations of the oppressed and working class, to develop and enact this programme. The purpose of Fightback is putting our programme into action in political activism, amending that programme in line with experience, and training its membership in Marxist theory and practice.

As a basis for this work, members passed the following 10 Point Programme:

  1. Constitutional transformation based on Tino Rangatiratanga, Mana Motuhake and workers power. Tangata whenua and community co-ops to operate as kaitiaki over public resources.
  2. Secure jobs for all who are ready to work, with a living wage and a shorter working week.
  3. The benefit system to be replaced with a universal basic income.
  4. Full rights for migrant workers.
  5. Opposition to all imperialist intervention and alliances, including New Zealand state’s participation in military occupations and the Five Eyes agreement.
  6. No revolution without women’s liberation. Full funding for sexual violence prevention and survivor support, free access to all reproductive technologies. For socialist-feminist solutions to the marginalisation of all gender minorities, within the movement and in society.
  7. For an ecosocialist solution to climate change. End fossil fuel extraction, expand green technology and public transport.
  8. For freedom of technology and information. Expansion of affordable broadband internet to the whole country. An end to Government spying on our own citizens and on others. End corporate copyright policies in favour of creative commons centred on producers and users.
  9. Abolish prisons, replace with restorative justice and rehabilitation.
  10. Free health-care and education at every level, run by those directly affected. In healthcare; remove inequities in accident compensation, move towards health system based on informed consent, opposition to “top-down” efforts to change working people’s behaviour. In education; full public funding for all forms of education and research, enshrining education in te tiriti and te reo.

Recent years have seen an offensive struggle against casualization in previously unorganised sectors such as hospitality, alongside a defensive struggle against casualization in ‘traditional’ union sectors. This accompanies a decline in participation in mass organisations, in a period of neoliberal entrenchment. Fightback passed a basic Union/Workplace Policy as a guideline for members in various sectors of the workforce and union movement.

Alliances

Comrades agreed to initiate a series of broad monthly forums with groups including the ISO, Hobgoblin, MANA, the ‘Left Thinktank’, and other individuals and groups.

Additionally, comrades resolved to initiate a process of debate and discussion with the ISO to test strategic possibilities for organisational unity.

Fightback also recommitted to participating in the MANA movement, as a vehicle for linking the struggles for Maori Sovereignty and socialism. As members of this movement, Fightback committed to developing a Mana Wahine policy and wahine caucuses. Finally, in line with the aim of supporting Maori sovereignty, Fightback committed to sending members to the 175th anniversary of Te Tiriti at Waitangi.

Fightback aims to be a socialist-feminist organisation. In line with this, the conference passed a Safer Spaces policy, as part of an attempt to challenge sexism within the movement. Comrades also resolved to investigate possibilities for a nationwide campaign for consent education in primary, secondary and tertiary education.

Finally, Fightback endorsed Sue Bradford’s proposal for a left-wing think-tank, and committed to a small monthly financial contribution to this project.

Organisation

Online forums offer opportunities for participation aside from weekly branch meetings. Participants amended the membership policy from a requirement to “attend branch meetings” to “work in collaboration with Fightback structures,” alongside agreement with the 10 Point Programme, and minimum dues of a $10 monthly sustaining subscription to the magazine.

Fightback continues to publish a printed magazine, but the bulk of readers engage through the website and social media. Participants resolved to use our social media platforms for more rapid tactical responses, while using the magazine for longer-term analysis. Fightback therefore endorsed a less regular magazine publication schedule, with themed issues including a crowd-funded issue dedicated to women’s writing.

WGTN event: Where Next for the Left?

snowden key lying lie

A discussion of the post-election prospects for radicals, facilitated by Fightback.
6pm | Monday 28th September | 19 Tory St
[Facebook event]

WGTN: March for free education

reclaim hub

We are students, university staff, and members of the community. Whichever parties form a government after September 20th, we are demanding an end to corporatisation of education.

We demand:
* Fully funded public education
* A Universal Student Allowance, cancellation of all existing student debt
* Bridging courses and support for people entering tertiary education
* Living Wage for all staff
* Student and staff representation in planning education policy
* A move away from funding primarily targeted towards marketable research, towards funding all socially valuable forms of education and research

Meeting at the VUW Campus Hub for a student and staff forum, before marching onwards (to parliament? National Party offices? Ministry of Education? Participants will determine our final destination).

Event called by Reclaim Vic, endorsed by Tertiary Education Union.

Campus Hub | 1pm | Friday 26th September
[Facebook event]

WGTN screening: Football Rebels – Brazil

democraciaIn 1980 during the military dictatorship in Brazil, the hugely popular Socrates, the captain of the Selecao and of Corinthians, used football to promote democracy while scoring goals. Popularly known as “The Doctor”, Socrates was a brilliant player, an intelligent revolutionary and a hero who stood up for what was right. With the help of his fellow teammates, “The Doctor” transformed every match into a political statement.

His support for democracy helped a country under authoritarian rule to remember that the people too could have a voice.

Al-Jazeera documentary screened as part of Fightback’s weekly “Introduction to Marxism” series, open to all:

6pm, Monday 21st of July
19 Tory Street, Wellington
[Facebook event]

CHCH Fightback Reading Group: How To Make a Revolution

capitalism is not working
“Revolutionary socialists have been accused for many years of wanting to overthrow the US government by force and violence. When they accuse us of this, what they are really trying to do is to imply that we want to abolish capitalism with a minority, that we want to force the will of the minority on the majority. The opposite is the truth. We believe we can win a majority of the people in this country to support a change in the system. It will be necessary to make a revolution precisely because the ruling powers will not peacefully accept a majority rule which wants a basic change.”

Ben Peterson will be facilitating a study of one half of a piece by Peter Camejo, available here:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/camejo/1969/howtomakearevolution.htm

Event is open to anyone and will be wrapped up by 6.30pm

5pm, Monday 7th July
University of Canterbury
[Facebook event]

Fightback 2014 Educational Conference: Gender and Women’s Liberation Panel

 gender liberation panel

Sionainn Byrnes, member of Fightback and UC FemSoc.

For many socialist organisations, the task of orienting, and indeed incorporating the struggle for gender equality – and women’s liberation, in particular – has proved both ideologically and practically fraught. A lack of meaningful dialogue, and the dominant perception of a universal (masculine) working class, has meant that the productive overlap between the two – admittedly diverse – positions has remained largely unexplored. Yet, within New Zealand (and around the world) we are witnessing the radical regeneration of both socialist and feminist perspectives – intersectional consciousnesses taking root in our communities, and on our campuses, for example. Fittingly, the 2014 Fightback Educational Conference, perhaps resulting from a mixture of serendipity, and a concerted effort on Fightback’s behalf to commit to a socialist feminist ethic, strongly emphasized the shared elements, and interconnectedness, of the oppressions experienced by the working classes, women, and LGBQT+ communities under capitalism.

Not to be outshone by the empowering and inspiring opening speech by MANA President Annette Sykes, Kassie Hartendorp, Daphne Lawless, and Teresia Teaiwa delivered what I would call the most engaging panel of the weekend: ‘Gender and Women’s Liberation'”, served as a broad, but much needed, introduction to both socialism and feminism, and highlighted the positive overlap between the two perspectives. Kassie convincingly demonstrated the ways in which each position could ‘illuminate the blind spots of the other’ – socialism offering a lens to analyse and redress class issues within various feminist movements, and feminism as a means of connecting to, and engaging with, the unique oppressions experienced by women and non-binary individuals under a capitalist system.

Daphne’s presentation, ‘Gender Diversity and Capitalism’, expanded on this introduction, and moved into the realm of gender policing, and the commodification of gender under capitalism. In illustrating the ways in which capitalism controls the expression of gender through the production and consumption of acceptable male and female identities (in the form of various products – cosmetics, food, and clothing being obvious examples), Daphne exposed the means by which capitalism is implicated in the oppression of women, and the overwhelming suppression of those individuals on the non-binary gender spectrum. Daphne argued that gender, like all commodities, is sold to us within a capitalist framework. Daphne also connected the struggle for transgendered actualization to capitalist structures by underlining the centrality of gender realignment surgery to trans* recognition and legitimacy within Western culture. This showed us how this kind of actualization is financially inaccessible to many people, and thus discriminatory on a class level, and how blatantly uncomfortable our overarching system of organization is with individuals who do not conform to the male/female binary. Daphne further critiqued the prevalent ‘lean in’ brand of capitalist feminism espoused by individuals such as Sheryl Sandberg.

Finally, in ‘Gender and Decolonisation’, Teresia, a poet and senior lecturer in Pacific Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, discussed the continued imperialism evident within mainstream feminist movements. Teresia used the recent ‘# Bring Back Our Girls’ hash tag as an example of the way that Western feminism co-opts, universalises, and erases the struggles of ethnic and indigenous women. Looking to the power in language, Teresia questioned who and what ‘our’ girls really means, and explained the difference between standing in solidarity as an ally with women around the globe, as opposed to moderating and speaking for these women, their movements, and their issues. Turning her attention to the Pacific, Teresia described thoughtfully the effect that Western feminism is having on indigenous women’s movements, preventing the imagination and implementation of unique and culturally appropriate feminist positions. Teresia’s talk gave attendees, particularly those of a feminist persuasion, much to think about in terms of the way that they pursue and frame struggles for gender equality and women’s liberation – considerations that are particularly relevant to the nascent formation of a so-called ‘Fourth Wave’ of feminism.

The ‘Gender and Women’s Liberation’ panel was, ultimately, a timely reminder of the need for an intersectional socialist movement – one that incorporates, respects, and engages with the unique experiences of men, women, and non-binary individuals under capitalism. It reflected Fightback’s recent commitment to a socialist feminist ethic, and laid the foundations for a radical socialist feminist consciousness within New Zealand.

 

Capitalism: Not Our Future conference report

heleyni annette fightback conference 2014

More than 100 people packed into the activist space at 19 Tory Street in Wellington. to discuss struggle, solidarity and socialism Queen’s Birthday weekend. The occasion was the Capitalism: Not Our Future conference, hosted by Fightback.

The conference came on the back of the growing development of the electoral alliance between the MANA Movement (of which Fightback is a part) and the Internet Party (IP), and the announcement of former Alliance cabinet minister Laila Harré as the IP’s leader. Given this theme, the choice of the opening night presentation – “Elections and Community Struggle” – was a pressing one for all socialists.

For this and many other reasons, contributions from MANA leader Hone Harawira and Annette Sykes were highlights of the weekend. The conference was also honoured by overseas guest Sue Bolton, local councillor in Moreland (Melbourne) and Socialist Alliance activist.

Other important guest panelists were Gayaal Iddamalgoda from the International Socialist Organisation; poet and lecturer Teresia Teaiwa, who discussed gender and decolonisation; climate scientist Simon Fullick; and Mike Treen, general secretary of the UNITE union, who gave a presentation on the Marxist theory of crisis.

For Fightback members, Grant Brookes discussed “Tino Rangitaratanga – What’s it got to do with Pākehā”; Heleyni Pratley discussed her experience visiting New York for a global fast-food workers’ organising convention; and Wei Sun talked about her experience as a migrant worker.

The conference was a huge success, both in terms of attendence and political content. Attendees enjoyed a spirit of open and frank debate, in which contributions from the floor were relevant and comradely and real discussion was possible with the visiting speakers. Generous donations from attendees raised $1300, more than enough to cover costs.

At a members-only meeting after the conclusion of the conference, Fightback made the following decisions:

  • to reaffirm its commitment to the MANA movement;
  • to affirm its commitment to socialist feminism, and to create a Socialist-Feminist caucus within Fightback.

WGTN conference keynote: Elections and community struggle (featuring Hone Harawira)

hone mana

Opening night of Capitalism: Not Our Future, a conference on struggle, solidarity and socialism.

2014 is a General Election year for Aotearoa/NZ. The last General Election saw the lowest turnout since women won the right to vote. This year, Fightback will be supporting the MANA Movement, whose stated mission is to bring rangatiratanga to the poor, the powerless and the dispossessed. Are elections relevant? Do they change anything? Why do we participate in electoral work?

A discussion featuring:
Hone Harawira (MANA Movement).
Sue Bolton (socialist councillor for Moreland, Australia).
Heleyni Pratley (Fightback).

5:30-7pm, Friday 30th May
19 Tory St
[Facebook event]

[Click here for more information on Capitalism: Not Our Future]

CHCH: Socialist-Feminist Day School

socfem day school chch2-3pm: Socialist Feminism 101
Kassie Hartendorp, Fightback.


3:15-4:15pm: Ecofeminism and the Gendered Politics of Consumption
Sionainn Byrnes, UC Femsoc.

4:30-5:30pm: Intersecting Oppressions and the road to liberation
Wei Sun, Fightback.

5:30pm: Dinner

Saturday April 26th
WEA (56 Gloucester St) Christchurch
[Facebook event]

Stop the TPPA: Wellington protest report

tppa day of action

By Joe McClure, Fightback (Wellington).

On the afternoon of Saturday March 29, protests took place around New Zealand, against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) currently going through Parliament.

In Wellington, this consisted of a march from Cuba St, to the steps of Parliament. Around 200 people gathered at the Bucket Fountain in Cuba St from 1:00pm, listening to representatives from CTU, Victoria University economics department, and the Mana party, who discussed what the agreement’s about and who it favours.

Protestors marched from Cuba St to Parliament, chanting slogans including ‘TPPA?  No way!  We’re gonna fight it all the way!’ and ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’

Outside parliament, security staff were blocking access to the designated assembly area, where the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) had arranged for a PA system to be set up, so marchers gathered in the grassy area next to that section instead.

Mana leader Hone Harawira addressed those present, emphasizing the unequal advantage the TPPA provides to member states, and punitive effects on non-members, and reminding voters to take a stand for fair treatment of all trading partners, rather than supporting the secret negotiations that have characterised TPPA planning stages.

Protestors from Parihaka in Taranaki also attended, encouraging marchers to reject the intended agreement, before switching to Maori protest songs as the crowd gradually dissipated.

Why do we oppose the TPPA?
The TPPA effects both trade between countries, and the operations of multinational companies within countries. It overrides internal legislation if a signatory introduces legislation that hurts the economic interests of another country. For example, plain packaging of cigarettes could be overturned as it undermines the profits of tobacco companies, or environmental legislation annulled if it adversely affects an oil corporation (thus making it harder to stop projects like deep sea oil drilling).  The agreement involves reducing trade tariffs by 90% by 2009, and completely removing tariffs by 2015.  It would entitle US drugs corporations to override Pharmac regulating the sale of pharmaceuticals in New Zealand, and enable parties to the agreement to protect intellectual property violations in other countries party to the agreement.

Such measure will benefit multinational corporations (such as Fonterra in NZ), but will hurt working class people in signatory states. It will make it harder for people to fight and win legislative changes that protect working class communities, and instead strengthen the hands of corporations in their drive for greater profit.