Good articles on campism and the “alt-left”


Fightback has been warning for a couple of years that, in these times when neoliberalism has run out of steam but the mass movements can’t create a new global system of equality, there is a real danger in the attraction that authoritarian anti-Western regimes, right-wing populist movements and even fascism have for many disorientated Left activists and working people. The latest sick example of this thread is the prominent “Marxist” philosopher Slavoj Žižek calling for an alliance between leftists and the white-nationalist, Trump-loving “alt-right” movement.

Here are some good recent articles from international radical journalists on this distressing trend:

The alt-left is real, and it’s helping fascists, by Idrees Ahmad (Scottish-Arab academic and journalist)

A lesson from Syria: it’s crucial not to fuel far-right conspiracy theories by George Monbiot (British eco-socialist author)

‘Anti-Establishment’: America’s New Syphilitic Politics of the Far Left and Alt-Right by Charles Davis (United States journalist)

The West’s Leftist Male ‘Intellectuals’ Who Traffic in Genocide Denial, From Srebrenica to Syria by Oz Katerji (British-Arab journalist).

Please note that while Fightback does not necessarily endorse everything these authors say, here or elsewhere, we agree with them on the need for working-class, socialist and liberation movements to reject the dead-end politics of “campist” support for authoritarian regimes which happen to be anti-Western, or the wish to engage fascists and racist populists in a rotten bloc against neoliberalism.


Avondale: Gentrification amid poverty

Bronwen Beechey is a Bachelor of Social Practice student, and lives in Avondale, Tāmaki Makarau / Auckland, and studies community development and social work.

This article will be published in Fightback’s magazine on Urban Revolution and the Right to the City. To subscribe, click here.

Avondale is a suburb about 12 kilometres southwest of the Auckland CBD. The area, known before colonization as Te Whau, was important to Maori as a transport route, as it is the narrowest point of the isthmus and canoes could be transported between the Waitemata and Manukau harbours. It was an important source of food, particularly kai moana (seafood), tuna (eel) and birds such as kuaka (godwit) and kereru.

The 2013 census showed that the Avondale population was made up of 22% Pasefika peoples, while 35% of Avondale residents identified their ethnicity as Asian. Avondale had an average unemployment rate of 12.1%, compared with 8.1 percent for all of Auckland. For people aged 15 years and over, the median income in Avondale was $23,067, compared with a median of $29,600 for all of Auckland. 23.6 percent of families were one parent with children families, while sole parents with children made up 18.4 percent of families for Auckland. 51.5 percent of people in Avondale owned their own home, compared with 61.5 percent for all of Auckland.

Avondale town centre reflects the economic and ethnic makeup of the suburb, with shops selling traditional Pacific Island clothing and food, cheap bakeries and takeaways (for a couple of months in 2016, Avondale had the dubious distinction of the highest number of D-rated food outlets in Auckland), and several two-dollar shops, interspersed with empty shops. Since 2012 there have been no banks, and no post office. Sports facilities include the Avondale Racecourse, which is also the venue for the popular Avondale Sunday Market. There are few other entertainment venues; and the Community Centre is only partly usable due to dampness and mould issues.

As Auckland housing prices soar, Avondale has become more desirable for property owners with its proximity to the city and affordability compared to inner city suburbs. The average house price has risen steadily from around $400,000 in 2012 to $753,200 in March 2016, and the average weekly rent from just over $350 to $480 per week in the same period. Avondale was also selected by Auckland Council as a Special Housing Area (SHA), with a mix of social and private housing developments to take place. However, the requirement for private developments to include a proportion of “affordable” housing was later dropped. While these developments will bring improvements to the area, there is also the danger of gentrification pushing out lower-income residents, as has happened in suburbs such as Ponsonby and Grey Lynn. As houses – particularly the desirable 19th and early 20th century villas – are sold and renovated, the original fence or hedge is often replaced by what some locals refer to as “gentrification fences” – high, solid walls. These suggest that the new residents appreciate the local character and diversity of Avondale, but only as long as it doesn’t get too close.

Mural created and painted by local Avondale residents for the 2016 Whau Arts Festival, on an empty building site in the main shopping strip.

Community development

Community development, according to the United Nations, is “a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.” It can encompass anything from local residents organising a petition to have a pedestrian crossing installed near their children’s school, to protests against major developments such as the proposed water treatment plant in the outer Auckland suburb of Oratia. Australian academic Jim Ife, in his book Community Development in an Uncertain World, sees community development as “the process of establishing, or re-establishing, structures of human community within which new, or sometimes old but forgotten, ways of relating, organising social life and meeting human need become possible.” Community development principles emphasise sustainability, diversity, empowerment and valuing local knowledge and skills.

There are several community action organisations operating in Avondale, including Avondale Community Action, the TYLA (Turn Your Life Around) Trust which focuses on “at-risk” youth and Whau The People, an arts collective which organises the annual Whau Festival and other events. ACA and TYLA are both involved in a government-funded community project called “Together We Are Avondale”, which is designed to “encourage locals to participate and engage more in our community”.

One issue that has caused concern is groups of young people huffing glue in public spaces, including on the grounds of Avondale Primary School. A workshop involving Together We Are Avondale and other groups identified the need for upgrading some of the spaces to make them safer. Other strategies include stopping local retailers selling glue to minors, and making contact with the young people to provide them with appropriate help.

This illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of community development as currently practiced. The fact that a community response was initiated to deal with the issue, rather than just relying on police or bodies such as CYFS, is commendable. However, the issues that cause young people to huff in the first place are not addressed. This is largely due to the limitations that government funding places on community organisations, and perhaps to a lack of vision in some organisations. Jim Ife refers to the tension in community work between the achievement of immediate goals and the ultimate vision of a better society. He argues that maintaining a balance between the two is vital: “immediate actions cannot be justified unless they are compatible with the ultimate vision, and the ultimate vision cannot be justified unless it relates to people’s immediate day-to-day concerns.”

Although it has its own character, Avondale is representative of many other communities around New Zealand which are struggling with the legacy of neo-liberal cutbacks. Community-building and activism provide an opportunity to engage with the people most affected and promote an alternative vision of a fair and just society.

George Soros, ‘Globalism,’ and Grassroots Revolt: How the Right Uses Conspiracy Theories to Appear Revolutionary

(reposted from It’s Going Down. This article is from an anarchist viewpoint and thus Fightback does not necessarily agree with all its conclusions. However, it effectively demolishes many of the most important conspiracy theories on which modern fascism and Right-wing populism depend, and show why the Left must fight such ideas even when they claim to be “anti-establishment” or “anti-corporate”.)

In the 1990s and into the early 2000s, a global movement against corporate globalization and neoliberal capitalism developed, with anti-authoritarian and anarchist politics at it’s head. In 1994, the Zapatista insurrection in Chiapas, Mexico against NAFTA made the world sit up, as indigenous people began self-organizing their communities after taking land back from the State in an armed uprising, blending indigenous Zapatismo with Mexican anarchism. Soon, a tidal wave of actions, indymedia projects, and grassroots groups began to be formed across the US, which fed into the growing anarchist movement. When the protests in Seattle of 1999 hit in November against the World Trade Organization, they famously popularized the black bloc tactic, however in truth the anarchist movement in North America had already been growing for years and exploded within the ascending anti-globalization movement, and was much bigger than simply one single tactic. Regardless, along with the anti-globalization movement, anarchism and its ideas grew.

Paid terrorists attack volunteer revolutionaries in the service of global capitalists.

The anti-globalization movement became in many regards, de-facto anarchist; from the ways that people made decisions to how people organized themselves to take action. Moreover, the mobilizations in Seattle were also important because it saw thousands of people join in confrontational demonstrations that disobeyed the leadership of union bureaucrats and NGOs, to say nothing of the Democrats in power or the police. As the government called for a curfew on demonstrations and even brought in massive amounts of body bags, and President Clinton demonized the black bloc as only wanting to attack “small businesses,” the riots grew into popular revolts as whole neighborhoods stood up against the police and began looting stores. Moreover, the combination of street clashes and blockades shut down the WTO meeting; the protesters won. Seattle set in motion a chain of events, as the anti-globalization upheavals continued, not only in size and scale, but also as popular confrontations between the State, it’s security forces, and the general population. While the events of September 11th in many ways sunk the movement, it remains a high point of anarchist organizing in recent memory.

Ironically, when large scale demonstrations like this break out across the social terrain in today’s world, as they often have in the last several years under another Democratic President, Obama, the far-Right simply writes them off. But how and why the write them off is very telling. Generally this first takes the path of conspiracy, as one section of the Right dismisses any kind of popular uprising or resistance as the work of “paid protesters,” almost always under the direction of billionaire George Soros. Another section of the Right will take this even further, and claim that those facing felonies and military grade police weapons are in fact soldiers of the “Zionists,” and are the foot soldiers of the “globalist” order.

But the far-Right did not always see things this way.

As the riots of 1999 in Seattle against the WTO played out, many on the far-Right actually saw what was happening in a favorable light. Beyond that, they even chastised their own movement for failing to live up to the same standard as the people that rioted and shut down the WTO meetings. Although the far-Right framed these actions in terms of conspiracies of the “Zionist Occupied Government, or “New World Order,” they still strangely enough, supported it. Matthew Hale, then the leader of the World Church of the Creator, stated in an essay after the riots:

What happened in Seattle is a precursor for the future—when White people in droves protest the actions of world Jewry not by ‘writing to congressmen’, ‘voting’, or other nonsense like that, but by taking to the streets and throwing a monkey wrench into the gears of the enemy’s machine.

Did the right wing hinder the WTO? No. They were too busy ‘writing their congressmen’—congressmen who were bought off a long time ago, or waiting for their ‘great white hope’ in shining armor who they can miraculously vote into office.No, it was the left wing, by and large, which stymied the WTO to the point where their meeting was practically worthless, and we should concentrate on these zealots, not the ‘ meet, eat, and retreat’ crowd of the right wing who are so worried about ‘offending’ the enemy that all too often, they are a nice Trojan Horse for the enemy’s designs.

Others agreed. Louis Beam, a former member of the Ku-Klux-Klan, and an almost a Subcomandante Marcos figure on the racist far-Right, as well as the person who popularized the concept of ‘leaderless resistance’ wrote:

…My heart goes out to those brave souls in Seattle who turned out in the thousands from both Canada and the U.S. to go up against the thugs of Clinton and those who put him in office. I appreciate their bravery. I admire their courage. And I thank them for fighting my battle…“Soon, however, there will be millions in this country of every political persuasion confronting the police state on streets throughout America. When you are being kicked, gassed, beaten and shot at by the police enforcers of the NWO you will not be asking, nor giving a rat’s tail, what the other freedom lovers’ politics ‘used to be’—for the new politics of America is liberty from the NWO Police State and nothing more.

We mention this history, just as Don Hammerquist did in Fascism and Anti-Fascism, not to imply that there can be some sort of ‘unity’ between white supremacists and anarchists, but simply to point out that the far-Right, at this time, recognized that one of their enemies – anarchists, were actually political agents in a battle against the State and the economic system it is designed to protect. They also understood that this struggle made their own movement appear weak due to inaction and reformism. Also, keep in mind that this was happening at a time of increased anti-fascist organizing, mostly under the banner of Anti-Racist Action (ARA), the very group that were breaking up meetings and beating the shit out of Matt Hale’s Nazi supporters, so these comments were not made without hesitation or reflection.

Things are much different now. For instance, when the African-American community of Ferguson rose in revolt against the police in the summer of 2014, the far-Right across the board condemned the uprising as the work of paid Soros protesters, or an example of the black threat to white civilization. One far-Right group actually even went to Ferguson to help put down the rebellion, the Oath Keepers, a Patriot/militia group, and attempted to act as an auxiliary force to the police. However, upon arrival, some in the group decided they instead wanted to march with guns with the protesters in order to show the police that the citizens were not afraid of them. This about face in position among some members, from wanting to support the State to wanting to support the black citizens of Ferguson, caused a split in the group. Needless to say, the march never happened, but the point remains clear: stand up to the State and its police, especially if you’re black, and the far-Right does not support you. In fact, it demonizes you as the enemy for doing so, or portrays you as a stooge to powers far beyond your control.

The current myths around Soros as the “Puppet Master” mirror the previous views of groups such as the John Birch Society and the American Nazi Party.

These extreme simplifications go back to the 1950s on the far-Right, where anti-communist groups like the John Birch Society painted a world where communists in the service of the USSR infiltrated every group with sizeable influence that was trying to change conditions for poor, working-class, and oppressed people. Moreover, they strongly opposed the civil-rights movement because they saw it as a stepping stone to socialism. Neo-Nazis like George Lincoln Rockwell took these ideas a step further, and proclaimed that civil-rights groups such as the NAACP were actually run by the Jews. African-Americans, Rockwell argued, were not smart enough to organize their own organizations, and thus had to have Jewish leadership. Such leadership, he went on, was proof of Jewish communist plans to ‘race-mix’ white people out of existence. Such ideas continue today on the far-Right, as Neo-Nazis like Matthew Heimbach repeat the same tired lines, while also heralding black nationalist groups such as the Nation of Islam. For the Right it seems, black struggle and organization is always dismissed, unless those involved have anti-Semitic and nationalist politics which mirror their own.

Despite downplaying grassroots resistance, community organizing, and revolt of any kind, the far-Right in the past 8 years has growly increasingly militant and at times, even insurrectionary. It called for Obama to be tried as a traitor. It called for Hillary to be fired and jailed as well. In an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge, a far-Right militia occupation in Oregon called for the end of the federal government and the replacing of the State with the power of the Sheriff and the opening up of all federal lands to mining, ranching, and resource extraction. At the same time, the racist far-Right grew in street militancy, clashing with anarchist and left-wing demonstrators, leaving several people injured, and in some cases, even attempting to kill them.

Throughout it all, if the far-Right was sure of one thing, it was the illegitimacy of any resistance that did not come from the Right itself. Any grassroots mobilization, any strike action, occupation of land, or insurrection against State authority was seen as suspect; written off as the act of provocateurs in the service of globalist elites. While it is easy to laugh off these ideas as the fantasy of twitter warriors, or tin-foil hat Alex Jones fans ranting about “the Lizards,” with Trump now echoing many of these positions, they become less easy to dismiss with a slight of hand.

From Globalization to “Globalism”

“Globalism” has now replaced “communism” and even Islam, as the boogeyman of the Right, while at the same time, still encapsulating both of them as threats within its worldview. The far-Right, and the Right in general is very good at taking very complex systems and reducing them down to simple problems caused by a select group of people. As we will show, the idea of globalism both seeks to attempt to appear populist or even revolutionary, while at the same time, singling out select groups of people who the Right claims further the ‘globalist agenda.’

But where did the idea of globalism come from and what the hell does it mean? After NAFTA was passed, and globalization allowed capital to move freely across national borders while locking workers behind them, as structural adjustment programs slashed social services, took away land, and restructured economies in the service of international capital, the mood began to change in the US among everyday workers against globalization. This anger helped feed into the anti-globalization movement, as large segments of labor joined the fight against free-trade deals. But it wasn’t long until sections of the right began to bring critiques of globalization into their talking points as well, Pat Buchanan being a key example.

On the Right, discussion of global capitalism was turned on its head; into a conversation on the problem of “the globalists.” In short, the problem wasn’t a system, but a set of people, and this problem is almost always described along the lines of a conspiracy. In short, those on the far-Right framed the problem in terms of American nationalism, sovereignty, and power, pitted against the “globalist agenda.” Furthermore, the far-Right, of whatever stripe, always described the elite globalist system as being supported and maintained by a set of non-State actors, which work in it’s service to destabilize sovereignty and attack the ‘Native’ population. For some this is immigrants, for others Muslims, for the racist far-Right, it means black people being controlled by Jews, among others. But for all, it means anti-capitalists and grassroots communities in struggle which fight against the dominant social order and power structure. As Liam Stack wrote:

Globalism is often used as a synonym for globalization, the system of global economic interconnection that has been critiqued for decades by liberal groups like labor unions, environmental organizations and opponents of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But for the far right, the term encapsulates a conspiratorial worldview based on racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism…

The term also often explicitly rejects any sort of anti-capitalist analysis of the systems of power and moreover, and instead replaces a class analysis with racial and national overtones:

Lauren Southern, a host on the right-wing Canadian media site Rebel Media, explicitly rejected its use as a synonym for globalization in a video she posted online in September. She said the word meant rule by autocrats — such as President Obama, former President George W. Bush and the United Nations — who value “the false flag of diversity” and “unchecked immigration from the third world.”

Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokesperson defined globalism as such:

An economic and political ideology which puts allegiance to international institutions ahead of the nation-state; seeks the unrestricted movement of goods, labor and people across borders; and rejects the principle that the citizens of a country are entitled to preference for jobs and other economic considerations as a virtue of their citizenship.

For the ‘anti-globalists’ then, the major problems facing everyday people are not pollution, repression, or poverty, but the pooling of State power into umbrella organizations, such as the United Nations, and “the flooding” of countries by immigration. For the Right, this results in a perceived attack on Western Civilization.

And for some on the far-Right, these ideas take extreme forms. For example, Alex Jones (who called globalism “the ultimate form of slavery”) contends that the globalists ultimate plan is a one world government and that they use immigration to flood sovereign States in order to destroy them and rig elections. Jones then goes on to contend that globalist elites also have plans to kill off a massive amount of the population through genocide and extermination for the sake of consolidating their power. Jones also preaches a set of even more hardcore conspiracy theories, some of which are paranormal in character and outright fucking crazy. But in the last year, Jones has crossed over as a Trump supporter, having Trump on his show, and we’ve even watched as Trump has parroted much of what Jones says in his radio broadcasts. It’s easy to laugh Jones off, but clearly his myth of ‘globalism’ is selling.

An image of George Soros from InfoWars’ article on globalism.

The Oath Keepers, one of the biggest Patriot groups also label globalism and globalists as their chief enemy. From the Oath Keeper page:

Arising out of the writings of Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (the Hegelian dialectic), and even further back to Plato, Globalism is a belief in a Utopian world run by wise men who care for the masses with a kind, benevolent hand. This we know is a bunch of crap, because those who are leading, (and have led), the world into this collective dystopia have murdered, “collectively”, hundreds of millions of people, through wars, genocide, ethnic cleansing and eugenics.

Fascism, socialism, communism and crony capitalism are all globalist at their core. meaning the collective is supreme over the individual. It is the battle between collectivism and individualism that we should be focused on, not left versus right,republican versus democrat, or fascist versus communist, but, rather, the collectivists vs. the individual, for collectivists hide in all the political persuasions. If someone wants to take your Creator-given, natural rights from you “for the greater good”, you can be assured they are collectivists. Those who would create the New World Order, are collectivists.

In many ways this critique of globalism simply continues cold-war opposition to communism, or inserts new enemies, such as immigrants or Islam, to make it fit into this idea of globalism as anything that threatens American nationalism and ‘sovereignty.’ The Conservativpedia post on globalism again makes this point:

Globalism is the failed liberalauthoritarian desire for a “one world” view that rejects the important role of nations in protecting values and encouraging productivity. Globalism is anti-American in encouraging Americans to adopt a “world view” rather than an “American view.”

Globalists oppose nationalism and national sovereignty, and instead tend to favor on open borders, free trade, interventionalism, and foreign aid. Globalists virulently opposed Donald Trump in 2016. Instead, globalists preferred Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz for the nomination, both of whom have voted in favor of the globalist agenda as senators.

Liberals support globalism because it leads to centralized power, thereby providing liberals with an easier way to gain control. It is far easier for liberals to persuade a handful of people in centralized government to rule in their favor than it is for liberals to push their agenda on a decentralized form of government.

The conspiracy theories of Alex Jones and his critique of “globalism” has been mainstreamed by Trump, who not only came on Jones’ show, but parrots much of his talking points.

This is why immigration is such a huge point on the far-Right, because they see it as “a tool of the globalists” to destroy State sovereignty. Of course, this myth hides the fact that mass migration of people is caused largely by the globalization of the capitalist economy, US involvement in the drug war and foreign policy, and now, climate change and lack of access to water. As The National Interest expands the far-Right position clearly:

Nationalists believe that any true nation must have clearly delineated and protected borders, otherwise it isn’t really a nation. They also believe that their nation’s cultural heritage is sacred and needs to be protected, whereas mass immigration from far-flung lands could undermine the national commitment to that heritage. Globalists don’t care about borders. They believe the nation-state is obsolete, a relic of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which codified the recognition of co-existing nation states. Globalists reject Westphalia in favor of an integrated world with information, money, goods and people traversing the globe at accelerating speeds without much regard to traditional concepts of nationhood or borders.

The overall logic of those opposed to globalism can best be reiterated and understood in simplicity by the Neo-Nazi Matthew Heimbach, who stated that the coming period will be defined by a war between globalism and nationalism, where nationalists of all stripes will fight against the globalist elites, which in Heimbach view, are manifested as a racialized Jewish global ruling class. If the nationalists are successful Heimbach contends, they will then create fascist States for each of their own races. While Heimbach’s position would be seen as extreme even on the Right, in many ways, this is just the logical conclusion on an idea founded on anti-Semitism. As Stack wrote:

Far-right groups in the United States began to refer to globalism at the end of the Cold War, when it replaced communism as an idea that was an ever-present danger to the nation, Mr. Pitcavage said. They have also referred to it as the New World Order, and soon they saw its tentacles everywhere.

The shape of that conspiracy had distinctly anti-Semitic overtones, in part because many of communism’s foes had historically seen communism as inextricably linked to Judaism, Mr. Pitcavage said. Members of the far right became fixated on prominent Jews like the businessman and philanthropist George Soros.

Those conspiratorial beliefs were bolstered when former President George Bush celebrated the end of the Cold War in a 1991 speech by saying it was the dawn of a “new world order.” His use of the phrase was taken as proof by many that a globalist conspiracy really was afoot.

The problem with all of this talk of ‘globalism’ vs nationalism is that it holds half-truths and full lies. Neoliberal finance capitalism is a global system. Neoliberalism and globalization have left behind billions of people, destroyed the environment, and attacked the living standards of the majority of people at the benefit of a small set of elites. However this is not conspiracy, it is not the creation of a cabal of Jews, and moreover, globalization is not designed to destroy the power of national States in order to create a one world government, nor is it the project of ideological liberal/Jewish/Islamics/Communists, or ‘globalists.’ Globalization and capitalism in general needs States. It needs them to manage and control their populations and lock them in place, even as capital and goods move freely. Finally, States are needed by elites on a variety of levels in order to bring about stability and prevent revolution when revolt and crisis break out. Moreover, just because capital is more globalized, does not mean that there are not competing visions among elites themselves.

But while the myth of globalism exists to explain the world in a way that allows the Right to actually make sense to people, and moreover, to make themselves appear to actually have political agency, it has other myths to describe everyone who resists in the here and now.

The Myth and Reality of George Soros

If there’s one thing Right loves to throw around, it’s the idea that George Soros is behind any sort of social movement, organized protest, or dissent in general against the status-quo. This is something that is held dear by all parts of the far-Right and even the center right-wing. It seeks to make sense of popular struggles and dismiss them as simply the work of people who are paid off by an evil financial capitalist. The myth has links back to anti-Semitic works such as the original fake news piece, The Protocols of Zion, and Soros being Jewish only adds icing to the far-Right’s cake. Moreover, it also side steps the issue of the very real stranglehold that non-profits and foundation money does play in resistance movements, which is negative, that seeks to channel social movements back into politics and the State, as opposed to building autonomous power on a community level.

But who is Soros? George Soros is the chairman of Soros Fund Management and is one of the 30 richest people in the world, making billions on hedge funds and currency speculation. Far from being an anti-capitalist or revolutionary, he’s most known for as “the man that broke the bank of England,” after he neted over $1 billion in currency speculation. Along with being one of the richest capitalists alive, Soros also donates to and funds many liberal non-profits that promote the Democratic Party and it’s bureaucrats. Soros has also backed many Democratic candidates, such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In 1984, Soros set up the Open Society Foundation that acts as a grantmaking network, further expanding the amount of non-profits who took on the role of providing social services; filling gaps that were created after Reagan began slashing various programs.

Because Soros does have expansive wealth, donates to what the far-Right describes as “left-wing” groups such as (a front for the Democratic Party), the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and (a large liberal non-profit), along with Democratic career politicians, on top of coming from a Jewish background, those on the Right love to use the image of Soros as a wealthy Jewish elitist to further a wide range of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and in the eyes of the far-Right, every riot, strike, occupation, and disruption ultimately has one man behind it: Soros.

This is also a myth that like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or shows like Ancient Aliens, gets ratings, clicks, and votes. One of Donald Trump’s last campaign adds attacked Soros, along with the head of Goldman Sachs (where ironically Trump’s top advisor Steve Bannon formerly of Brietbart used to work), and the Federal Reserve, along with Clinton, in what many described as having anti-Semitic undertones. In 2010, Glenn Beck released a two part series on Soros, calling him “The Puppet Master,” claiming that he wanted a one world government and for himself to rule it. Again, this reduction of struggle, dissent, and unrest boils down complex situations into easy solutions; and Soros as a wealthy Jew makes an easy devil for the far-Right.


The far-Right portrays Soros as behind the organic struggles of poor, especially black people, as a way to demonize and downplay them. This plays into the myth that a Jewish cabal controls the world and moreover, that black people are unable to organize themselves without “puppet masters.”

For instance, during the fall of 2014, the far-Right again used the myth of Soros to claim that he was behind the Ferguson riots, and paid people tens of millions of protesters to “riot” in the wake of police murder of Mike Brown, Jr. Later, as black insurgency spread to Baltimore, the far-Right again pushed the line that Soros was bank-rolling the Black Lives Matter movement, which many on the Right simply equated part and parcel with the self-organized uprisings that were organically coming from the black community itselves. As the Movement for Black Lives (in many ways the “official” Black Lives Matter organization) tried to reign in the expanding movement that was becoming more and more militant, it also became awash in grants from the Ford Foundation as Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Not surprisingly, some of the leaders of the official organizations of Black Lives Matter, and its push for policy reforms, Campaign Zero, and ended up endorsing Clinton.

For those on the far-Right, this is evidence that the entire movement was itself funded by Soros, and that the rebellions, protests, mass organizing, and uprisings were all his doing. But what this really shows is that wealthy liberals and powerful non-profits were trying to bring popular and self-organized movements back into politics; to smother them of any revolutionary potential. For instance, in a recent article on Left Voice by Julia Wallace and Juan Ferre argues that this relationship between wealthy donors (like Soros) and non-profits actually moved revolt out of the streets and back into more ‘acceptable forms’:

We may ask ourselves, how did a platform of a movement that swept the streets throughout the US become a set of policy briefs meant to lobby Congress? The undersigned names and organizational affiliations give us a hint: most belong to the world of nonprofits, many are sponsored by the Ford Foundation, George Soros, the Black-Led Movement Fund, and other capitalist funders.

Wealthy philanthropists like George Soros are not friends of popular struggles, foolishly bankrolling their own demise. Organizations like the Ford Foundation are not interested in “liberation,” but rather, appeasement and co-optation. There is a long history of US capitalists intervening in social movements (ie., the Civil Rights movement) with the effect of steering them away from militancy and towards compromise. Philanthropy is a strategy of the rich, who may give up some wealth to fund progressive projects in order to quell social unrest, maintain their position of power, and maintain the capitalist order.

Many organizations that form part of the M4BL have taken donations from corporations, including a $500,000 grant from Google (Ella Baker Foundation). There is plenty of lip service to opposing capitalism, but how much challenge is really being made when the same organizations are accepting money from millionaire capitalists and billion-dollar corporations?

The ever-burgeoning nonprofit industry has a key role to play in contemporary US society. It contains the outrage of the disenfranchised, the most exploited and oppressed. It diverts the thrust of militant activism from disruption to civic procedures. The money and logistics funneled into these movements have a determining influence. In exchange for precious resources, they shape the demands and methods of the organizations they fund to fit the likes of the funders. As progressive as it may seem, the generous influx of money into these movements causes terrible harm. A significant layer of activists becomes “professionalized,” embraces the modus operandi in these settings and reproduces a strategic framework and discourse that leads nowhere.

The far-Right portrays Soros as behind popular revolt because it wants to paint grassroots organizing and resistance as illegitimate.

In short, Soros along with a host of other wealthy and powerful liberals were part of a push to pacify and contain Black Lives Matter and bring it back into the Democratic Party, but had nothing to do with “funding riots,” as the far-Right likes to imagine. The elites that attempt to control social movements with money want them to be political not disruptive.

But these are also myths that aren’t going away anytime soon. Recently, far-Right social media accounts proclaimed that Soros would “use black hate groups to bring down America.” Not surprisingly, these quotes were quickly shown to be completely made up and false. Most recently, the far-Right claimed that Soros owned various electronic voting machines in a variety of states, and thus was possibly rigging the election, while these myths were quickly exposed as simply “fake news.”

Why the Right Needs These Myths

At the end of the day, the myth of Soros and the globalists is helpful to the far-Right because quite simply it explains why people revolt; for the Right, it’s simple: they are paid to and on their own, are too dumb or incapable of organizing anything. This myth goes back to the anti-Semitic and racist views of old, and the anti-communist lines held by the John Birch Society that a select group of puppet masters are playing the good workers and poor in an elaborate scheme for world domination.

But most importantly, the Right has a direct and real need to explain why revolt comes out of human communities because by attacking and discrediting it, it makes itself appear to be revolutionary and at the forefront of a worldwide struggle against “globalism” and overall, justifies themselves taking State power (or supporting it). This combination of dismissal of the capacity of human beings to run their own affairs and struggles, especially the poor and the colonized, while at the same time valorizing one’s own need to rule over those people, runs throughout both the authoritarian Left and the Right, and should recognized as the filth that it is and attacked.

In fighting the far-Right we can’t simply dismiss these ideas, we need to confront them head on.

Pasefika Issue: Two poems by Tusiata Avia

These poems are also published in a special Pasefika Issue of Fightback magazine.


The thing is

even after all these years

even after all you know

after all the times you have visited

classrooms , divided them into four

pointed to one quarter and said:

All you people have been sexually abused

to get the message across.

And then listened to them unbutton their stories

shame and anger lighting them up

firing the night inside them

the blackness all around

a thousand bright bombs falling from the sky.

The thing is

after speaking through the mouths of every kind

of good girl

girl child

bad girl


After reading

and talking and posting

the drain out of it

and then have it tunnel

back up through you

as big as an earthquake

only to disappear again.

Even after marching

at the anti-rape demonstration today

with your six-year-old daughter’s hand in yours

and a sign pinned to her chest:

Believe Survivors

even now, as you stand here in the Square

you wonder

because it was twenty-five years ago

and you did kind of like him

even though he was a bit of a Fob.

You wonder

because it was the Samoan Students’ Association so’otaga

and you were the president the year before

the first woman, the first New Zealand-born, the first afa kasi

and it was in your home town

and you helped him find a place to stay

you picked him up from the airport

it made you feel helpful

and kind and involved

and you did kind of like him.

You wonder

because after one of the asosi parties

you were a bit drunk and ended up sleeping

in the lounge of the house he was staying in

and kind of hoping something might happen

in the same way you would hold a tiny, fragile creature

in your loosely caged hands

maybe a butterfly or a baby mouse

and offer that delicate thing up

to him and hope he might

ease it gently from you

so as not to hurt it

and maybe offer something back.

Because of that

you let him kiss you

on the floor

before it turned

from a hopeful kiss with a guy

you kind of liked

to him on top of you

and you saying

No, stop it!

Because he’d stopped kissing you now

and even though he was shorter than you

he was a hell of a lot stronger than you could’ve imagined

and was prying you apart.

You wonder

because when you realised what was happening

you knew you didn’t want that

and you told him, I don’t want this. Stop!

But the thing is

he didn’t stop

he just kept going

he didn’t say anything

and you swore at him

Fucking get off me!

I don’t want this

I don’t want this

you said

I don’t want this.

But he just kept going

and didn’t say anything at all

until he was finished

when he rolled off you and said

It’s no big deal.

That’s all he said.

And you wonder

now, in the Square

if you could’ve fought harder

or not slept in the lounge

or not let him kiss you

or not kind of liked him

or not hoped he might like you too.

And you remember

that the next morning

when you got to your mother’s place

you looked at yourself in the hall mirror and thought

I’ve just been raped.

And then you had a shower

and changed into your church clothes

and went to the church service with everyone else

and he was there.

And when you returned to teachers’ college in Auckland

you couldn’t function

you kept seeing him in the cafeteria

and everywhere

and you kept cracking up

and missing classes

and when you finally went to the counsellor

and talked about it

she said, Have you heard yourself?

You keep saying

It’s no big deal.

So, today

twenty-five years later

as you watch this young woman

in the Square

the age you were then

take her clothes off in protest

you wonder again

whether it was rape

and whether it might have been your fault





My body is not an apology

not a hiding place

not an arranged and artful fortress

my body is not a vapid pool of water

my body is not draped

it is not imagined into another shape or texture

not to you, Beloved

my body is a waterfall of flesh

my body is a herd of animals, fat and groaning for the bliss of slaughter

it is the celebration running down the faces of the famished

it is handfuls and handfuls

it is marrow and jelly and sizzling fat dripping steadily into the bonfire

my body is a baptism, a confessional

my body is the vows of a hundred thousand virgin soldiers

my body is the war that scours the earth

my body is the shalom and the salaam

my body is the mother shot suddenly in the street

my body is the mother dying slowly

my body is the frightened child coaxed out from beneath the body

of her fallen mother with a promise of honey

my body is the honey drowning the blind, the halt, the deaf, the mute

my body is the hospital

my body is the orphanage

my body is a hundred ice creams lined up like parents

my body is the alofa and the aroha

my body is the Sinai, the Red Sea, Hawai’i

my body is a room full of ancestors hurtling through the hole in my chest

Hine-nui-te-po, Pele, Nafanua, Isis, Aphrodite

their arms and legs and hair, hot and wet and tangled as they leave

my body is the distance between our bones, Beloved

my body loses its mind and its manners

my body is quivering, slippery, flushed as a newborn

my body is your mother

my body is your medicine

my body is the midwife hastening your own birth

pulling you out from inside the womb of your self

my body is the Qur’an, the Torah

my body is the Christ

my body is the prophetess, the Samoan goddess of war

my body leaves the underworld and rows across the oceans

my body is wet from the journey and frightens those who run to meet me

my body knows only of itself

which is the whole world

and the sky and the moon

and the planets spinning

my body catches them all in a net made of skin

my body is the tent of my body

and dwells here on earth among us.

Youth Issue: Editorial + Contents


E ngā mana, e ngā reo e ngā karangarangatanga maha, tēnā koutou.

Welcome to the Youth Issue of Fightback Magazine, Redefining Activism.


There is a well-known whakatauki (Māori proverb) that says: ‘Ko te mahi a te tamariki, he wāwāhi tahā.’


This is often understood as meaning that the activities of children break the calabashes (gourds, liquid vessels). Some say that it is the very job of young people to test the values and beliefs of their past and present. That those broken calabashes are not always misguided mistakes, but a conscious and significant moment of clarity. A question; a prompt, a challenge to one’s surroundings. Fresh eyes on old ways, a possibility of a new vision.


As a teenager, I could count on one hand the adults in my life who were open to peering through those cracks in the gourds. Sitting with me amid the broken pieces and unanswered questions. Unafraid to have challenging conversations, and consider how strange society can look to the young. The unwritten rules of justice/injustice that you don’t find in a school book but you see and feel in the playground. Past the most frustrating phrase – ‘it’s just the way it is’ and towards ‘what will make this better?’


This issue is an attempt to capture both the wisdom and the challenge presented by young people, who are already engaging within community, activism, ideas and politics. As a 26 year old, I asked four young people under 25 to help guide the direction of this issue. Their kaupapa included ideas such as:

Asking the questions: what do we see as “real” or “legitimate” activism and why?

How do we challenge negative narratives around youth activism?

Why are older activists so cynical about youth activism and the future of activism in Aotearoa?

At the core of this issue is searching for a redefinition of activism. To do this we are looking at narratives of survival and resistance by youth under capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, and homophobia/transphobia/biphobia/interphobia. We want to challenge the idea that youth are disaffected and show the ways in which they are transforming activism in Aotearoa.

This issue features eight pieces by people under the age of 25 on the topics of: the activist tradition in Aotearoa, decolonisation, colonialism, xenophobia, sexism, sex work, voting and what alternatives look like to our current political systems. This isn’t a silent peering through the cracks in the calabashes, this is an unashamed explosion. It is a multitude of thought out, planned out, felt out wero to not just our current political structures, but often, the existing forms that resist them as well.  And still, these whakaaro, are only the tip of an iceberg, in a churning sea of discontent as we inherit the rising tides, global crises, swelling inequalities and deep poverty in this century.

So this issue is in essence, a challenge. The calabashes are broken, but their shards are a cause for conversation, for action, and for change. Will you sit with us and envision a new world? Will you stand with us and fight for it?

Ngā mihi aroha, in solidarity and with love,

Kassie Hartendorp

Editing Team Coordinator


Massive thank you to the awesome editing team: Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho, Aaliyah Zionov, Sophie Mui Sim Weeber and Hugo Cordue.




  1. #activism – Brett Tinkle
  2. African Young People and The Battle of Colonialism – Joya Tiana
  3. Teenage Girls, Language, Social media, Activism and Survival – Ali Burns
  4. Decolonisation Love Song – Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho
  5. Whose Future Is It? Xenophobia and Nationalism on the Left – Tyler West
  7. Beyond the Ballot Box – Brodie Fraser
  8. We Can Go Further: Alternatives to Our Political System – Charlie Prout

Youth Issue: Alternatives to Our Political System

another world is possible

Charlie Prout is a 22 year old student completing a BA in Sociology and Political Science. He has an interest in communicating big complicated issues to the public in simple ways.


Youth cannot get involved in economic activism without a dialogue of an alternative system. I sat down with Dr Dylan Taylor, Lecturer in Social Policy and Sociology, and Dr Greta Snyder, Lecturer in Political Science, at Victoria University of Wellington to discuss alternatives to neoliberalism and how activists can make anti-neoliberal activism appealing to youth.

What is the current economic system? How does it hurt people?

  1. The general tendency is towards privatisation, greater efficiency, deregulation, all of those components. One of the really interesting things about the current economic climate from the work perspective, there has been this introduction of flexibility to labour. The flexibility you see today is thought to be a good thing [but it is] to the detriment of a lot of the working population.

DT: The current economic system is, of course, a capitalist one. Capitalism is by definition, for the vast majority, a system based on exploitation. And this exploitation can take place in areas you wouldn’t normally think. For instance, when you’re engaging with your peers on social media you’re also generating information that companies like Facebook or Twitter can sell on and make a huge profit from. The genius of capital lies in its ability to extract value from all facets of our lives.

What are the alternatives to neoliberalism? How do we create a counter narrative?

GS: It’s got to be done at a lot of different levels… Occupy Wall Street is a great example…of the potential for a large-scale rejection of the kinds of forces [that perpetuate capitalism].  At the local level, there is all sorts of great stuff that is being done… On the more radical side, you have groups like the Zapatistas who are like “opt out, we will create our own world with emphasis on group autonomy, and self-sufficiency, and sustainable development”.

DT: First we need to ask if we want an alternative that still sits within the capitalist paradigm? If so, then we can turn to historical alternatives such as Keynesianism, and retool them for the current moment. As seen in the bailouts given to financial institutions following the global financial crisis of 2007, states still have the capacity to undertake significant interventions in the economy. Although considering the deepening levels of inequality and homelessness “developed” countries face, this was not an intervention that benefited the majority of people. So a Keynesian style approach would see the state intervene to do such things as create more jobs, build social housing, and regulate capitalism to curb its worst excesses. A counter-narrative in this sense could run along the lines of “we’ve done it before, let’s do it again.”

More exciting, however, is to think how we might move beyond capitalism. Historically the alternative has been called “communism”. The catchphrase of communism is “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs” – it’s a profoundly egalitarian idea. We each do our bit, what we can, and in turn we’re guaranteed a dignified life. One of the justifications for capitalism is that it fosters innovation and, in turn, improves living conditions for us all over time. But we’re now faced with declining living standards in Aotearoa and elsewhere, along with the wider issue of environmental catastrophe, and innovation is stifled because the most important thing seems to be making profits for the rich. So how about this for the basis of a counter-narrative: “capitalism is holding us back, we can do so much better!”


How do we develop activism around these alternatives that get youth involved?

GS: A resignification of activism is necessary. There are lots of discourses out there that paint activists as virtuous [and promoting them]. It is fighting against economic forces, but [also] against social forces that are really harmful to people. Youth in New Zealand are facing a particularly fraught moment in terms of mental health. A lot of people feel really alienated…by the forces that face them – going to university, paying for university, finding a job. To say “hey this isn’t just your problem, this is our problem and you are not alone” is a pretty attractive thing.

DT: A starting point is developing an understanding of the systems and relations of power we live in. Not just capitalism, but patriarchy, racism and colonialism (and I’m sure there’s more). We need to think about the ways these intersect, and how these “big issues” influence the conditions of our day-to-day lives. So this is a negative process, in a way, asking: “how am I exploited, or oppressed, or held back?” – and also, “how do I exploit, oppress, or hold others back?” This involves critical self-awareness and dialogue with others.

More positively, we can ask what aspects of our everyday lives might, if amplified, form the basis for a better society? Think about the way you treat the ones you love, the way you cooperate with your workmates, how you feel when you’re doing something creative. To scale this upwards, however, we need to build enduring connections with one another. Organisation is needed. And if it’s systemic change we’re after, then we need to find ways of linking different projects and struggles together. We need to think big. Have a vision. Realise our communities, this country, the world as a whole, can change for the better.

Beyond the Ballot Box


Brodie Fraser

Political participation is an important facet of democracy. In recent years there has been a rise in the study of alternative forms of political participation. There are a number of reasons for this, however the main one is global trends of declining political participation. This is said to be a “crisis of Western democracy,”[1] which has led to studies exploring alternative forms of participation that are less institutionally recognised. One of the main subsets of alternative participation is online participation. Online political participation covers a range of actions including online voting, online campaigning, and social media use. Both Members of Parliament (MPs) and the general citizenry use social media as a way to participate in political life, hence the need to take separate looks at online political campaigning and everyday social media use. As these forms of participation are growing and evolving, there are a number of gaps in the existing thought. One of the most obvious gaps is how to translate these forms of participation into engagement with formal political institutions. Another gap relates to online voting. Voting is regarded as the pinnacle of political participation; online voting is then the main form of online participation we think about. However, much of the literature about online voting focuses on why it will not work; we fail to look for solutions to the issues online voting poses. There is also a gap when it comes to the ways in which politicians use social media platforms such as Instagram. Social media is an important tool in promoting policy, personality, and a party’s brand, so it needs to be studied in depth.

While political participation is synonymous with voting, it does include other forms of engagement. It encapsulates voting, petitions, protests, and engagement with Members of Parliament, amongst others. As Riley, Griffin, and Morey note; “Political engagement has traditionally been thought of as a set of rights and duties that involve formally organised civic and political activities (e.g. voting or joining a political party).”[2] These forms of participation are institutionalised, and are recognised as being legitimate. Online voting is a form of political participation, while social media use is a less institutionalised form of participation.

Online voting is a major part of debates about increasing participation. Vesnic-Alujevic argues that the internet has the potential to attract citizens and widen participation.[3] The internet can then be seen as an equaliser, and a platform through which diversity can be increased and upheld. Estonia was one of the first nations to adopt online voting, and studies have shown as online voting increased throughout the country, so too did voter turnout.[4] Online voting is shown to increase youth turnout, as the majority of young people have now grown up with the internet as an integral part of their lives.[5] There are also arguments against the adoption of online voting. Lust found that online voting in Estonia reinforces socioeconomic biases in voting as online voters tend to be more urban centred, well educated, and richer.[6] He argues Estonia should abandon online voting due to technological security threats, and the inequities of the medium.[7] One of the main arguments against online voting is to do with security; it is seen as being too easy to hack into and there are concerns that voting from one’s own home could result in family and friends pressuring voters to make certain choices.

Much of this literature focuses on the reasons why online voting should not be adopted. While this is a necessary and valid stance to take, there is a lack of people who are attempting to address and find ways around the issues with online voting. So much of our way of life now relies on the internet that it does not make sense to merely dismiss online voting. Instead, we must work to find creative and lasting solutions to current issues with online voting. This will result in an open and robust form of political participation. It is important we address how these issues can be rectified, rather than restating the issues with online voting.

As the internet becomes ever more important in day-to-day life, politicians are focussing more of their energy in campaigning online. The internet and social media are simple and fast ways for politicians to communicate with large numbers of citizens. Alongside this, online campaigns are often cheaper than offline ones. Facebook can be used to easily spread information and engage people in events politicians host and attend. New Zealand-based research found that while MPs think they use Facebook for two-way conversations with the public, posts on their pages suggest they predominantly use the platform to broadcast information.[8] This suggests that MPs need to reconceptualise the ways they are using social media to ensure it is being used to critically engage with their followers.  Twitter is a means for MPs to engage directly with their constituents and the public as a whole; it is frequently used to interact with the media and citizenry. Finally, Instagram can be used to convey a particular image politicians wish to present. For example, many use Instagram as a way to show the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects of a politician’s job. Social media is becoming an integral facet of life as an MP; it enables greater communication and breadth of campaigning.

As social media trends are constantly evolving, it can be difficult for the literature to keep up to date. One of the largest gaps in current literature is to do with how politicians use Instagram. It is being used by both politicians and political parties alike; parties use it as an extension of their party brand, and MPs use it to share visual snippets of their life as a politician. It is becoming an important part of campaigns and requires a greater focus on how it is used, the demographics it is reaching, and the influence it has on campaigns. Instagram can be used to cultivate a personal brand. It would also be beneficial to analyse MPs’ social media use through a social institutionalism lens. Social institutions “influence behaviour by providing the cognitive scripts…that are indispensable for action…”[9] This approach would provide a useful conceptualisation of social media use. We already see MPs being prevented from posting on their social media platforms on election days due to the influential nature of such posts, which suggests we need to closely examine the impact of social media use in the political sphere to ensure it is being utilised in the best ways possible.

Social media is an important facet of political participation. It has grown exponentially in the past decade and become a pervasive part of life. As forms of social media evolve, so too do the ways in which it is used. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can all be used as conduits of political participation. Each platform is used in different ways; thus political participation varies across them. Much political debate now takes place online, with a large portion of this occurring on Facebook.[10] Studies have found Facebook users participate in debates and share political information with their networks.[11] This is a new and simple means of opening up political dialogue. Velasquez and LaRose found that social media serves as an alternative form of collective activism, which contributes to the engagement of young people.[12] Social media has the ability to increase individual and collective political participation.

Social media can significantly alter the way we conceptualise political participation. It has rapidly become a ubiquitous part of life. There is, however, a lack of literature about whether or not social media based political discussions result in an increase in institutional forms of individual political participation, as well as the intricacies of how various platforms are used to engage in politics. As Fenton and Barassi argue, “all creative human activity has the potential for political transformative capacity but to understand how this potential can be translated into a reality requires an appreciation of enduring social and political structures…”[13] We must look at how and why current political institutions are so enduring, and find ways to translate this to online forms of participation.

Political participation is a necessary aspect of any functioning democracy. New technologies are changing the way we participate in politics, so activists, political scientists, and policy creators must ensure they work together to institutionalise them. The three main facets of online participation are online voting, social media as a campaign platform, and social media as a form of political participation. As the field is relatively new, there is a lack of comprehensive theory and literature about it. There are gaps that need to be addressed. This includes; ensuring we have the tools to translate online participation into institutionalised participation, focusing on how to remove barriers to online voting, and studying the intricacies of how social media is used in politics. In addressing these, political scientists will further institutionalise online forms of political participation and provide theoretical frameworks for public policy creators to be able to create comprehensive policy that addresses the necessity of online participation.



Fenton, Natalie., and Veronica Barassi. “Alternative Media and Social Networking Sites: The Politics of Individuation and Political Participation.” The Communication Review 14, no. 3 (2011): 179-196. doi: 10.080/10714424.2011.597245.

Hall, Peter., and Rosemary Taylor. “Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms.” Political Studies 44, no. 5 (1996): 936-957.

Lust, Aleksander. “Online Voting: Boone or Bane for Democracy?.” Information Polity 20, no. 1 (2015): 313-323. doi: 10.3233/IP-150373.

McCaffrie, Brendan., and Sadiya Akram. “Crisis of Democracy?: Recognizing the Democratic Potential of Alternative Forms of Political Participation.” Democratic Theory 1, no. 2 (2016): 47-55. doi: 10.3167/dt.2014.010205.

Riley, Sarah., Christine Griffin, and Yvette Morey. “The Case for ‘Everyday Politics’: Evaluating Neo-tribal Theory as a Way to Understand Alternative Forms of Political Participation, Using Electronic Dance Music Culture as an Example.” Sociology 44, no.2 (2010): 345-363. doi: 10.1177/0038038509357206.

Ross, Karen., Susan Fountain, and Margie Comrie. “Facing Up to Facebook: Politicians, Publics and the Social Media(ted) Turn in New Zealand.” Media, Culture and Society 37, no. 2 (2014): 251-269. doi: 10.1177/0163443714557983.

Velasquez, Alcides., and Robert LaRose. “Youth Collective Activism Through Social Media: The Role of Collective Efficacy.” New Media and Society 17, no. 6 (2014): 899-918. doi: 10.1177/1461444813518391.

Vesnic-Alujevic, Lucia. “Political Participation and Web 2.0 in Europe: A Case Study of Facebook.” Public Relations Review 38, no. 1 (2012): 466-470. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2012.01.010.


[1] Brendan McCaffrie and Sadiya Akram, “Crisis of Democracy?: Recognizing the Democratic Potential of Alternative Forms of Political Participation,” Democratic Theory 1, no. 2 (2016): 47, doi: 10.3167/dt.2014.010205.

[2] Sarah Riley, Christine Griffin, and Yvette Morey, “The Case for ‘Everyday Politics’: Evaluating Neo-tribal Theory as a Way to Understand Alternative Forms of Political Participation, Using Electronic Dance Music Culture as an Example,” Sociology 44, no.2 (2010): 346, doi: 10.1177/0038038509357206.

[3] Lucia Vesnic-Alujevic, “Political Participation and Web 2.0 in Europe: A Case Study of Facebook,” Public Relations Review 38, no. 1 (2012): 466, doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2012.01.010.

[4] Aleksander Lust, “Online Voting: Boone or Bane for Democracy?,” Information Polity 20, no. 1 (2015): 316, doi: 10.3233/IP-150373.

[5] Lust, “Online Voting: Boone or Bane for Democracy?,” 466.

[6] Ibid., 320.

[7] Ibid..

[8] Karen Ross, Susan Fountain, and Margie Comrie, “Facing Up to Facebook: Politicians, Publics and the Social Media(ted) Turn in New Zealand,” Media, Culture and Society 37, no. 2 (2014): 251, doi: 10.1177/0163443714557983.

[9] Peter Hall and Rosemary Taylor, “Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms,” Political Studies 44, no. 5 (1996): 948.

[10] Vesnic-Alujevic, “Political Participation and Web 2.0 in Europe: A Case Study of Facebook,” 467.

[11] Ibid..

[12] Alcides Velasquez and Robert LaRose, “Youth Collective Activism Through Social Media: The Role of Collective Efficacy,” New Media and Society 17, no. 6 (2014): 914, doi: 10.1177/1461444813518391.

[13] Natalie Fenton and Veronica Barassi, “Alternative Media and Social Networking Sites: The Politics of Individuation and Political Participation,” The Communication Review 14, no. 3 (2011): 194, doi: 10.080/10714424.2011.597245.

Youth Issue: Whose Future Is It? Xenophobia and Nationalism on the Left


asians support tino rangatiratangaTyler West


I entered the loose assortment of radicals who make up the New Zealand far left (or at least, left-of-parliament) in the aftermath of Occupy, which probably makes me among the newest batch of young activists. My first exposure to politics was being mistaken for an Occupier and (nearly) bottled while in school uniform. First protest I ever attended was against the GCSB in my last year of high school, and first campaign I was involved in organising was the TPPA movement. I spent every computing class doing absolutely no work whatsoever and pouring over every new report from the Arab Spring. Watched, as did a great many others, in absolute awe at the revolutionary movements which seemed on the verge of toppling tin-pot dictators and ‘the corporations’ (which I can now articulate as neoliberalism) alike. I remember the feeling of something surely changing soon, and the optimism it brought in the wake of the crash. For me at least, and I suspect others, that optimism lasted until around Gezi Park and refocusing from the Libyan to Syrian civil war. After that the current mood of defeat in the face of each worsening new disaster set in. I start off like this not to build lefty credentials but to contextualise the political situation that the current generation of budding radicals grew out of. We grew into politics not only in the aftermath of the ’08 crash, but also the disappointment of those who failed to overcome it. For those of us who were first exposed to radical politics in and after 2011, it is the memory of working towards something genuinely new that remains an underlying motivator. But in the process of going from starry eyed to actually participating in political debates and organising within the left, I’ve encountered more regression in the face of that defeat than progress.

It is out of this that I believe the disconnect between elements of the radical and progressive left, and typically fairly young far leftists stems. Overall, the primary opposition to neoliberalism which spurred the revolutionary movements in the West in 2011 is in fact a regression. A hearkening back to the protectionism of the welfare state, and to the varying levels of nationalism inherent in that. While apparent elsewhere on the NZ left, it most recently and clearly appears within the TPPA movement. I’ll focus on the nationalist aspects of the movement, which dominate any internationalist tendencies in it. This visibly manifests in the overabundance of national flags and the branding of organisations with a distinctly nationalist focus, the slogan of It’s Our Future often paired with posters depicting NZ with a Kiwi defending it from some menacing outside threat.

This isn’t restricted to one movement, it is one of the most striking parallels between the TPPA and State Asset Sales movements. Both had significant participation from the radical and progressive left, which either did too little or were simply too marginalised to overcome the Kiwi Nationalism which came to dominate both. More or less harmless, if vaguely irksome, by itself this works into a problem where the continuing expansion ‘patriotic’ rhetoric is left unchecked.

Last year’s Fighting Foreign Corporate Control Bill, pushed by NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau, had support from various progressive and radical leftists at the time. It was pushed on the premise of foreign corporations being the problem, the word ‘foreign’ held as much negative connotations as ‘corporation’ in the discourse. When Lori Wallach came over from the US to go on a speaking tour with Jane Kelsey, I posed the question of whether a locally based company could exploit Investor-State Dispute Settlements to have just as much power to sue governments. While some assured that it wasn’t possible and foreign corporations were the problem, Wallach informed the audience that it was possible and had actually occurred. In fact such an attempt had failed just a few months earlier. Philip Morris set up a branch in Hong Kong in 2011 to exploit the 1993 Australia-Hong Kong investment agreement, which it attempted (fruitlessly) last year.1 While there was some dissent, not a huge amount of work was done to actually critique the foreigner focussed NZ First bill. What was certainly a time to make the case that we’re working against an attack by the ruling class, or at least ‘corporations’, and not foreigners, was either missed or ignored.

Herein lies the problem, this discourse over foreign corporations serves only to reinforce the (sometimes vaguely, sometimes expressly) xenophobic protectionism of the old welfare state. The focus of the discourse has been fundamentally about specifically foreign threats to ‘the average Kiwi battler’. The debate on housing hasn’t been all that much better, lest we forget Labour’s moronic ‘Chinese sounding last names’ position. Followed in turn by various erstwhile leftists simply supporting it as is, or at least excusing it for trying to solve the housing crisis. While certainly more heavily critiqued then the nationalist elements of the TPPA movement, I still noticed that comrades from a couple of progressive and radical socialist groups took a stance defending Labour. While I honestly didn’t expect a unilateral rejection of Labour’s position from the centre-left, I did find various people I knew on the socialist left that tried to defend Labour. Again, the same problems as before. Even though there was some (certainly much more in this case) critique of Labour’s xenophobic stance on housing, there was likewise just as much indifference or even support for what is patently an underhanded hearkening to economic protectionism. Indeed I even find that the calls for rent control, which find more comfortable footing on this end of the spectrum, tend to come primarily from self-identified revolutionary socialists. While certainly something which could help a fair amount, it’s a fundamentally welfarist solution which relies on the state intervention and protection within the housing market. This would be fine if it were coming from people who earnestly came from a position of re-establishing the old welfare state. But it’s the supposed revolutionaries who push it forward, while even more watered down variants are proposed the closer to the political centre you get. Without some broader idea as to how simple rent controls flow into fully socialised housing further down the track, there’s no claim to socialism involved. It’s simply a retreat, a regression back into relying on the welfare state without a broader attempt at explaining why or critique of what it was before.

And this is the case with all of the above. There seems to be an overwhelming give up feeling inherent to this. That we’re fighting on these political fronts just to break even, and not to strike forward. I find more purchase suggesting that we take an internationalist perspective and instead of trying to defend what we still have actually fight on the grounds we can make things better among random folk who turn up to rallies than many activists I’m usually around. For me, and I assume others, giving up on the project started in 2011 isn’t an option and we can’t just regress into a default position of defending the welfare state. In a recent interview on Radio NZ Noam Chomsky mentioned that even during the darkest days of the Depression there was an optimism that it had to get better afterward, something lacking in the aftermath of the GFC.2 While for those who saw the radical upsurge in 2011 and the defeat afterward may feel this, for us who started in 2011 there is no going back. The awe and enthusiasm of that year will remain.


1 Tobacco Giant Sues Australia, 28/7/2015, The West Australian.

2 Noam Chomsky on the death of the American Dream, 6/5/2016, Radio NZ

Decolonisation Love Song

decolonisation love song

Huriana Kopeke-Te Aho is takatāpui activist, “artist” & survivor currently residing in Tāmaki Makaurau. They whakapapa to Tuhoe, Ngati Porou, Rongowhakaata, Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi & Ngati Kahungungu Ki Wairoa. Their special interests include decolonisation & indigenous resistance, prison abolition and talking shit about the illegitimate settler state.  


Decolonised love is a radical act


Decolonised love is a howl and a scream


Decolonised love is this:


some stories have more space to exist than others, some stories were destroyed completely, they took so much more than land.


I keep thinking about how arohanui is so different to i love you

How tapu doesn’t really mean sacred

How wairua doesn’t really mean spirit

But we have to translate the feeling behind the language so that the colonisers understand.


These are hands that are always shaking


This is a body that never healed


but they tell me, my grief is so beautiful, we have never seen this type of heartache

please teach us, please teach us how to hurt like you


Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between the hurt and the history, between a war cry and a mourning song, between my hands and theirs.

My mother said: always love your big feet, always love your big hands, always love your big head, they are so sacred.


Love your brown skin,



Love your brown skin,



Love your brown skin,



I want to tell you


I want to tell you that when you lie with me, the weight of our histories seem a little less heavy, at least in this small moment and I am so grateful.


I want to tell you that there is something so beautiful about our brown bodies together.


I want to tell you that Aotearoa is a land full of ghosts but when I’m here with you, I feel a little less haunted.


Do you know how safe i feel with you?


Do you know how safe i feel with you?


Do you know how safe i feel with you?


When you touch me, it feels like rapture

When you touch me, it doesn’t hurt to remember

When you touch me, my tupuna cry.


They whisper


“They are safe here with this one,

they are safe here with this one,

they are safe here with this one and we are so glad.”


When we fuck it is a chorus, it is a small stirring wind, it is mourning for all the ones that came before.


It is all of our ancestors coming together.


We bury them here


in all our soft thighs, big hands, wide flat noses pressed to high cheekbones, brown skin on brown skin on brown skin on brown skin.


Our bodies together is a eulogy,

our bodies together is an ancient love song,

our bodies together is revolutionary,

our bodies together is a small act of resistance.


I am safe here with this one,

I am safe here with this one,

I am safe here with this one and I am so glad.


You tell me my scars look like the confiscation lines.


They do to our bodies what they did to the land


You trace them and say: you are not theirs.


I am not theirs they had no right to claim me.


I am not theirs they had no right to claim me.


I am not theirs they had no right to claim me.


When we are together, I remember the old stories,


You are always calling me home,


Kei te aroha au ki a koe


(i love you)


Kaua e tangi


(Don’t cry)


Kaua e haere


(don’t go)


Haere mai ki konei


(come here)


Korero mai


(talk to me)


You are my manu tioriori, my songbird.


You are my Hina-keha, my light in the dark.


You are my matariki, you bring new and precious things.

Youth Issue: Teenage Girls, Language, Social media, Activism and Survival

I am like other girls

Ali Burns is a creative living in Wellington, placing herself with feminist values and a strong social conscience. Her creative profile includes completing her Masters in scriptwriting, directing music videos, web series, as well as creating and performing as part of the band prizegiving. 


Teenage girls in groups are rarely taken very seriously. They are often seen as silly and frivolous, and most likely gossiping about something vapid and uncultured. However teenage girls have more power over culture than they are given credit for.

The idea that teenage girls are vapid and useless saturates our culture. Films, books, music and TV often paint the picture of the teenage girl being  an airhead, a “mean girl”, or “not like other girls” (which basically means the dream girl of the writer). Recent examples include Paper Towns (which I’ll admit tries to address this but also in many ways fails at it), The Duff, Supergirl, The Princess and the Frog and Drake. This is not to discredit these works of their worth, I merely wish to point out examples of media creating the trope of “not like other girls”. When I was in high school I bought into this idea and looked at other teenage girls like they were silly and frivolous, and these were my friends. I had been so soaked in the culture that ridiculed teenage girls that I discredited my friends because of it. I would try to avoid being like them because it meant that I was the girl who was not like other girls and that meant my emotions and thoughts were valid. It was a way to survive being a teenage girl.


This idea of being “not like other girls” discredits and silences young women, as they are never given the opportunity to take themselves seriously. They can’t raise their voices together in protest if they do not trust each other’s voices. However teenage girls have been silently and unconsciously protesting this culture for centuries, by creating their own culture and language in defiance, and by doing this they create a safer space for to exist in.

Teenage girls are the biggest creators of language, and have been throughout history. William Labov who is the founder of modern sociolinguistics wrote a paper which showed that women lead 90% of linguistic change, a finding that has been confirmed many times. The women who create the most language are young, something easily observed by examining where a lot of new slang and speech comes from. Young women’s voices and their language should be celebrated. It is a way from them to survive, and it is a way for them to rebel against the society that persuades them that their voice is worthless.


An article on the Quartz by Gretchen McCulloch suggests that if we value Shakespeare so much then we should be applauding the innovativeness of the language that young women invent.  Young women are condemned for the very thing that Shakespeare himself was applauded for. Katherine Martin, head of US dictionaries at Oxford University Press, explains that if Shakespeare really was inventing so many words during each play then no one in the audience would have understood what was happening in the play, and that Shakespeare was in fact just recording the vernacular of the time. This vernacular comes mostly from young women. As letters that were evaluated by Nevainen and Raumolin-Brunberg at the University of Helsinki showed, between 1417 and 1681, female letter writers were making far more changes in their speech than male letter writers.


Why are young women so good at creating new language and why do they do it if they are continually criticized for it? Beels and Wood explain that “some acts of youth agency can be seen as irrational, and some acts of resistance may not be conscious choices made by the individual”. To be a young women within a society that is constantly discrediting you is not easy, so creating language which can’t be understood by those who shame young women has got to be satisfying. Producing this new language and using it within a safe environment can be a form of invisible activism that is an act to create social change, even though it is not conscious.

There is a public perception that youth of today are “apathetic compared to previous generations”, however if we consider disrupting language as a form of activism then we can see youth as constantly performing a form of invisible activism, as “activities of agency occur in spaces where a subject can stand, speak and be oneself; they are performances of identity just as much as they are moments of cultural creation” (Beels and Wood).  Teenage girls do not have access to many spaces where they can stand and speak without ridicule. So creating speech and having it assimilate into everyday language is a way of performing their identity as well as creating social and cultural change.


This creation of language is evolving faster than ever due to the use of the Internet, where language among youth is shared quicker than ever before. Using the Internet as a platform for activism and survival is also a way to include youth and acknowledge them as more active in social change than they are recognized for. It is important to acknowledge when speaking of youth “apathy” in social activism that “some youth do not have access to the resources needed to do transformative agency, and others are permanently excluded from this position because of who they are and where they live” (Beels and Wood).  The online community therefore is a safe space for young women who are not able to feel confident or physically be within a public space to speak out about causes they feel strongly about. Using social media and online communities to educate them and perform agency instead of doing so in a physical sense “may be in part a reaction to the limited spaces young people can occupy in physical spaces owing to the increased privatization and regulation of public spaces” (Wyn and White 2008). So it is misleading to criticize young women for being apathetic by not being physically present in activist communities.


A youth activism group in Auckland called Radical Youth used social media as a way to communicate with their members and followers, noting “young women from Radical Youth preferred to use social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook in their creation of a community of youth activists”, and when examined it was observed that “these social networking sites have generated few adult responses. In effect, these sites have appeared to be “no-go”” zone for adults, effectively providing young women with a new space to connect with their peers away from the eyes of adults” (Beels and Wood). Which shows that older generations do not see these communities grow and the education and activism that is happening within them, which is why it is dismissed so much as a form of activism. Recently within New Zealand many young women are calling out sexual abusers through social media to warn other women, the ability to share this information is vital for many people’s survival, and having the ability to use a non-physical platform to do this also can protect the victims.


It is easier to access the knowledge we need to move forward and disrupt the patriarchy than it ever has been. Young women are sooner aware of the limitations that are put on them and therefore can sooner combat them. Using language and social media to create communities and culture is helpful for the survival and safety of young women, and even though this alone cannot combat the injustices that young women face we need to acknowledge that young women are more powerful in creating social change through these platforms than they are given credit for.