Protesting like the Greeks

Marika Pratley, Workers Party, Wellington

On Friday May 25 Bill English criticized over 400 Auckland students  who protested against the budget cuts. He commented,  “they need some Greeks to show them how to do it.”  Greece has a rich history of radical tradition. With Greece bearing the forefront of the economic crisis in Europe, the Greek working class has faced intense pressure to comply with austerity measures.

Framed in the mass media as “rioting-hooligans”, “tax-dodgers”, or simply “lazy”, these misconceptions have led to Greeks being ridiculed and scapegoated in-the-name of the economic crisis. However both capitalism and the financial crisis are global. These austerity measures are not unique to Athens, and the outrage against austerity is an international phenomenon which goes outside Greece’s borders. Furthermore the Greek working class did not ’cause’ the crisis in Europe, and the working class and beneficiaries in Greece should not be forced into paying for the crisis. The financial crisis ensued as a result of the capitalist system not being able to sustain itself. [Read more…]

The challenges facing student radicals

Joel Cosgrove, former VUWSA president and Workers Party member, will be presenting on The University as Factory for Socialism 2012.

While Auckland University Students’ Association has been voluntary since 1999, this is the first year for most other universities under this new context. The experience of money-grabbing which occurred at Auckland is being repeated around the country, as institutions use the law change to rack up peripheral fees, with relative impunity.

In an effort to bypass the 5% fee maxima cap on tuition fees, student levies on peripheral services i.e. student health, gym, student services etc have been raised (often doubled) over the past few years. At Victoria University the Student Services Levies for a full-time student (including the VUWSA levy) has risen from $407.50 in 2009 to $650 in 2012 (excluding the VUWSA levy, the SSL was $275.60 in 2009). Speaking bluntly at a student forum in 2009 then Chancellor Tim Beaglehole said “There is no other income that we have control of.” When the University was questioned under the official information act on the amount of effort spent lobbying the government about the ever increasing level of fees (something that raises much hang-wringing each year at council, while they simultaneously raise said fees) between 2005-2007, their efforts had consisted of three letters to the Minister of Tertiary Education. It is unlikely that the situation has changed.

Yet while the money side of the discussion of VSM is important, it is the politics of VSM which are primary in the discussion. Politically the situation has changed very little in the transition, because to a large extent that political sovereignty has been ceded willingly. The only change is a technical one in that now that voluntary relinquishment of autonomy has now been legally recognized. The students’ association can now not back out, where hypothetically it could when it was willingly ceding its independence.

The mentality therefore is unchanged. At VUW, the Student Union (a confusing name which covers the university’s recreational and non-academic service provision) is angling to take over clubs funding, and has just released an “independent” review which confirms it. This is a side issue within a minor department of the university and one of resource control and small castle building. Whether the Students’ Association controls club funding or not the university calls the shots. [Read more…]

Capitalist universities and fightback

Joel Cosgrove

Universities are an important part of modern society. The Education Act of 1989 defines them as being the “critic and conscience of society”. In practice the record has been patchy at best. Students (and staff) have historically joined in repressive actions against striking wharfies in 1913, deputised and moblised to put down peaceful marches by unemployed workers during the depression.

In the documentary 1951 author Kevin Ireland recalls calling a Student Representative Council meeting to make a stand against the draconian laws passed to smash the locked out watersiders in 1951 and finding his progressive motions drowned out 10-1 by conservative students, bent on supporting the authoritarian actions of the state. Future Prime Minister and editor of the Victoria University student newspaper Salient described the (relative) progressive freedoms in place for women at the university in the mid-60’s as corrupting, stating that “If she does this [get involved in politics] she will never become a lady” as well as becoming losing their apparent “femininity”. Michael Laws first came to prominence at Otago University as a leading supporter of the Springbok Tour, with surveys at both Otago and Victoria Universities indicating a rough 50/50 split in opinion for and against the tour. Even during the ‘golden years’ (roughly the 1960’s-80’s) the role of the university was to pump out industry friendly graduates. Every freedom gained, was gained through struggle. Some of the early protests in the 60’s at Victoria University were over the right for students to have the ability to live in mixed gendered flats. [Read more…]

University uses state forces against activists


I/we call on Victoria University to lift the trespass notices on Heleyni Pratley and Joel Cosgrove.

(Organisation/title/institution for identification purposes only)


Student action knocks back transnational

– Sam Oldham

It is no secret that tertiary students in New Zealand are financially burdened. After the educational reforms of the 90s, the average student is today shackled by a lifetime of debt, only exacerbated by rising food and petrol prices and the rising cost of rent.

However, there is another threat to the welfare of many students that is not often addressed – the corporate ownership and profit from student hostels at many universities.

The hostel, or hall of residence, is the popular choice of most first-year tertiary students around the country when deciding where to live as they venture to new cities to engage in full-time study. These hostels, although coordinated by the universities, are most often under private ownership, usually by large domestic companies or multi-national corporations.

Victoria University of Wellington offers four major halls of residence to its prospective first-year students, and a number of minor hostels. Of these, only two are owned directly by Victoria University, the others by private enterprise. So the profit of only two halls is reinvested in students, the rest going straight to the private sector.

[Read more…]

3 Workers Party members elected to 2009 VUWSA executive

– Workers Party Media Release

Workers’ Party member Jasmine Freemantle was elected President of the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) for 2009 last Wednesday night.

Freemantle was elected by a comfortable majority over her Labour Party rival Sonny Thomas, after a heated campaign that fuelled the highest voter turn out in a VUWSA election since the early 1990s.

[Read more…]

WP candidate contesting UCSA by-election

Workers Party leaflet against proposed Arts Cuts at Canterbury University

Once again, whole departments and their staff (academic and general) and students are under attack at Canterbury – and other universities. The attempt by Canterbury management to abolish American Studies and Film and Theatre Studies, while also wielding the axe against Classics and Art History is an attack on jobs, knowledge and students.

Universities in New Zealand are being turned increasingly into businesses. Just like a sausage factory produces and sells commodities called sausages, universities are being transformed into businesses which sell commodities called ‘degrees’.

The university as a business means charging students more in fees, crowding more students into classes, dumbing down courses for sale as commodities, increasing and intensifying the working hours of staff, holding down wages and eroding work conditions in general and cutting courses and departments which may be socially useful but don’t generate large amounts of money – all this in order to maximise profits.

The education system in universities is coming to more and more resemble factory-line production.

Why is this happening?

Click here to download leaflet