Monday, December 28, 2009

Taking ourselves seriously... a serious response

Anarchist strategy is something which has preoccupied a lot of my thought and practice this year — partly through becoming involved in a new anarchist collective, and partly because, like all of us, I often wonder what I could be doing with myself to further the collective struggle in bringing about a different kind of world. This same question is posited in the opening address of ‘Taking Ourselves Seriously’, so it is with excitement that I’d like to share some collective positions myself and others have come to with regard to this question. I hope to address some of the issues that all four speakers put forward, mainly framed around the notion of ‘marginalisation’, and ‘sites of struggle’. Through looking at these topics I hope to put forward strategies which I think may be beneficial in pursuing, and touch on what I think the key element to constructive action is, namely forms of struggle which encourage the building of ‘dual power’.

The panelists illustrate a desire for movement away from action-based activism with no coherent structure, towards a more constructive anarchism. I think this is a worldwide trend, where ineffectual black bloc action and Crimethink-style anarchism is being eclipsed by a return to ‘classical’ or ‘class struggle’ anarchism — what is termed by Schmidt and van der Walt in ‘Black Flame’ as the ‘broad anarchist tradition’.

Josh MacPhee talks about mining history, and questions whether or not what we are mining is effective. While he is specifically talking about graphics, the same question applies to anarchist strategy. It seems for many anarchists, not much ‘mining’ has gone on at all — there seems to be a real lack of knowledge around our own history of mass-based anarchism. Unfortunately, it may be because this kind of struggle (as Cindy points out) can seem both boring and bland due to outcomes not being entirely visible or felt. Yet long-term community and workplace struggle is the work we need to be doing as anarchists, in a way that transcends generational burnout and is outside of our radical milieu.

How do we escape our anarchist ghettos and make the jump from isolated experiments to struggle for mass social transformation? Ideas are put forward throughout the talk, such as more public discourse, linked spaces and an understanding on what we want anarchism to become. Yet these ideas still presume an outsider position with regard to struggle. While this is understandable due to our current marginalisation, I would put like to put forward that we look back — to moments of struggle where our ideas were accepted and practiced by a large minority, if not a majority, of the radical left and the labour movement in general.

The key, as Maia points out, is figuring out and identifying the sites of intervention around us. Yet how can we intervene when we are more often than not located outside mainstream society, or more specifically, the workplace? Maia talks about dropping out in such a way that enables future effective struggle, yet it’s the very notion of dropping out that I think negates our effectiveness. This is not a dig an Maia, but an illustration of her own observation that we tend to be comfortable in the margins of society. What is needed is not a more effective way of evading capitalist social relations but an immersion into and confrontation with them — sites of struggle not outside of capitalism (and not through attempts to 'escape' it), but within and amongst it. And not immersion in the sense of getting involved in an existing mass struggle with the ‘correct line’ and then leaving, but instead to build and help shape that mass struggle in a way that practices what we preach, from the outset, and through it's many twists and turns. How to do this? I hope to illustrate below that it is the methods and forms of anarcho-syndicalism, namely radical workplace action and community assemblies, that we need to be building.

I have to disagree with the strategy Joshua advocates: while worker’s self-management and more ethical forms of capitalist economics now is worthwhile, it is premised on the idea that capitalist relations can be transcended while within a capitalist society — something that leads to: a) a successful business model fostering the notion of gradual and peaceful change without challenging or confronting capitalism, and/ or B) permanent entrenchment within a system that ultimately cannot and will not be reformed. What we need is self-managed struggle, not more successful models of capitalist existence. This is nothing new: any reading of Bakunin, Kropotkin, or the recent debate on about co-operatives illustrates my point a thousand times more succinctly than I could.

Sites of intervention
So, where are the sites of intervention we should engage in? In short, the workplace — in connection with the wider community. Our biggest success in the past, as anarchists, has been when our ideas have been accepted and practiced in workplace and community struggle. It is these sites of struggle which have, or have come close to, destabilising and smashing capitalism through the power we hold as producers. This is not to transplant tactics of a bygone era onto today’s world, but to learn and engage with strategies that were effective. Nor am I advocating we all get factory jobs. I am simply pointing out that this kind of struggle has been done before — we don’t need to re-write the book, but add a new chapter.

Although the nature of capitalism has changed — invisible markets, highly decentralised capital, out-source and casualised labour — the classical analysis of producer power is still relevant. It is in these sites of struggle that action can really be effective, not through pure discourse, but praxis — struggles structured in such a way that fosters self-organisation and the building of alternatives through resistance. What I understand this as is ‘dual power’. The collective I am part of has this to say about dual power:

“Dual power is the idea that the embryo of the new world must be created while fighting the current one; ‘building the new in the shell of the old’. It means encouraging working class organs of self-management, where we can exercise our autonomy and restrict the power of boss and government until such time as we can confront and abolish both. A dual power strategy is one that directly challenges institutions of power and at the same time, in some way, prefigures the new institutions we envision. Therefore, it not only opposes the state, it also prepares for the difficult confrontations and questions that will arise in a revolutionary situation.”

The key to building dual power is coherent strategy and structure, or more specifically, structures which ‘encourage working class organs of self-management’ which challenge and confront the power of the state. Ethical, self-managed businesses do not confront the state. Instead, radical, revolutionary and ultimately threatening dual power could be built through structures such as industrial networks and mass, community assemblies.

Examples of dual power in practice
Here I’m directly quoting from our collective strategy, which has been drafted through experience and in light of worldwide examples of successful, class-based action.

Industrial networks are a structure by which revolutionary industrial unions and other forms of libertarian workplace organisation can be created. An industrial network is a network of workers who support the ideas of anarcho-syndicalism, namely direct action, solidarity, collective decision making and self-organisation. The role of this network would be to call for workplace assemblies, argue for direct workers control of struggle by these mass assemblies, promote direct action and solidarity, put across anarchist ideas, and build organs of dual power.

Community assemblies take a similar form as above, but based in the wider community. It is the building of forums by which we can raise issues that affect our working class communities, and provide a means of solving them. As such, it is a means of directly involving local people in the life of the community and collectively solving the problems facing us as both individuals and as part of a wider society. Politics, therefore, is not separated into a specialised activity that only certain people do, or a specialised workplace existing as an island within capitalism.

The community assembly is the mass assembly of its members, practicing direct democracy in struggle. By organising our own forms of direct action (such as tax strikes, rent strikes, environmental protests and so on) we weaken the state while building dual power. Again, the structure is as important as the issues at hand.

In these ways, a grassroots movement from below can be created, with direct democracy and participation becoming an inherent part of a local political culture of resistance, with people deciding things for themselves directly and without hierarchy. The combination of community assemblies and industrial networks will be the key to abolishing the current order, and to create an anarchist communist society. These forms of struggle allow us to become accustomed to managing our own affairs and seeing that an injury to one is an injury to all.

In this way, revolutionary dual power can be created, not from outside, but from within, and together. As Sam Dolgoff said in 'The Relevance of Anarchism to Modern Society': "To forge a revolutionary movement, which, inspired by anarchist ideas, would be capable of reversing this reactionary trend, is the task of staggering proportions. But therein lies the true relevance of anarchism."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Taking ourselves seriously

A talk given at Bluestockings Books in New York, New York on Sunday, October 18, 2009 by members of the Institute for Anarchist Studies with Josh MacPhee, Maia Ramnath, and Joshua Stephens. Anarchism has become a widely espoused organizational practice in radical American communities, but many anarchists seem to revel in the margins and are prone to dismissing their own potential. Join our panelists for a discussion of the long haul of social transformation as we work toward an egalitarian, directly democratic society.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Art and activism

CLICK HERE to watch the video! An old talk/slideshow by Zoe and I at Pecha Kucha, looking at things like art, 'activism' and what it means to be an anarchist making 'art'. Just remembered about it and thought I'd post it up. Merry christmas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What Would Jesus Buy? December film night!

Beyond Resistance presents (in true Christmas spirit): What Would Jesus Buy?

What Would Jesus Buy? follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as they go on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse: the end of mankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt!

From producer Morgan Spurlock (SUPER SIZE ME) and director Rob VanAlkemade comes a serious docu-comedy about the commercialization of Christmas. Bill Talen (aka Reverend Billy) was a lost idealist who hitchhiked to New York City only to find that Times Square was becoming a mall. Spurred on by the loss of his neighborhood and inspired by the sidewalk preachers around him, Bill bought a collar to match his white caterer’s jacket, bleached his hair and became the Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping.

Since 1999, Reverend Billy has gone from being a lone preacher with a portable pulpit preaching on subways, to the leader of a congregation and a movement whose numbers are well into the thousands.

Through retail interventions, corporate exorcisms, and some good old-fashioned preaching, Reverend Billy reminds us that we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. What Would Jesus Buy? is a journey into the heart of America – from exorcising the demons at the Wal-Mart headquarters to taking over the center stage at the Mall of America and then ultimately heading to the Promised Land … Disneyland.

Watch the trailer here:

Food, drinks and childcare will be provided, so come on down and join your local anarchists as part of our monthly film nights at the WEA! Zines, books and more will also be available on the night.

Thursday 17th December. Doors open: 6.30pm. Film starts: 7pm.
WEA (59 Gloucester Street), Otautahi/Christchurch.

Koha entry.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Siege 'Drop Dead' EP

These guys have been growing on me! Extremely fast hardcore which predates the really bad crossover/grindcore stuff. 1984!

From Wikipedia: "Siege's unprecedented level of extreme hardcore punk was some of the fastest and heaviest of its time, incorporing lightning fast tempos, chord changes, vocal delivery, and blast beats into its style, thus setting the stage for the emerging thrashcore/grindcore scene which would later develop alongside the extreme metal movement. And though rather short-lived and little-known during their existence, subsequent musicians have cited the group as a profound influence, including the famous British grindcore band Napalm Death and the American thrashcore band Dropdead, whose namesake was derived from the title of Siege's demo of the same name."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dick Scott: Rona Bailey Lecture 2009

Every odd-numbered year the Labour History Project hosts the Rona Bailey memorial lecture, to commemorate a great political and cultural activist who died in 2005. This year's speaker is Auckland author and historian Dick Scott who was a friend of Rona's from 1946. Dick will speak about his own life and work and is reliably irreverent and witty. All welcome!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A country considered to be free...

"Towards a Transnational Study of New Zealand Links with the Wobblies" — an essay by Mark Derby which looks at New Zealand's relationship with the IWW.

In the 1890s a New Zealand watersiders’ leader announced to his members, “We have no flag, we have no country.”[1] He was declaring the internationalism of labor at a time when patriotism and imperialism then characterized the population. It was some years before his views became widespread, even within the militant end of the New Zealand union movement, and none promulgated them more strongly and sincerely than the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies, whose name is itself a declaration of internationalism. The early Wobblies were internationalists in practice as well as in spirit – they belonged to transitory occupations, they crossed and re-crossed the Tasman, the Pacific and much further afield, were often in danger of deportation or on the run, and in general they regarded their nationality as an accident of birth and a supreme irrelevance.

For those reasons a study of the Wobblies in New Zealand, which has been barely attempted on practical grounds, is also inappropriate to its subject. It is imposing a nationalist frame on an internationalist movement. Instead, I am addressing the wider issue of New Zealand’s many links with the IWW, links which run both into and out of this country and include some of the organization’s most influential figures worldwide. My research suggests that the influence and extent of Wobbly ideas in New Zealand have been seriously understated, and New Zealand’s links with Wobbly movements elsewhere entirely overlooked. The Wobblies themselves left only scanty traces of their actions as they passed in and out of this country, and the partisan rewriting of history by the political parties which regarded themselves as natural successors to the IWW both co-opted and eliminated traces of their Wobbly roots. This essay is, therefore, an initial attempt at tracing the Wobbly strain in New Zealand’s political development.

The title, “A Country Considered to be Free,” comes from a speech made by William Trautmann at the IWW’s inaugural convention in Chicago in 1905. In accepting the post of general secretary, Trautmann informed the other delegates that he had been born in New Zealand, the son of a transient German miner who followed the gold rush to Coromandel in 1868 and was killed six years later in an industrial accident in the mine.[2] His widow and five children, including five-year-old William, returned to Germany, and as a young man William Trautmann made his way to the US and joined the fast-growing industrial unionism movement. In 1904 he wrote to labor bodies worldwide to seek support for a planned new organization to oppose the reformist American Federation of Labor (AFL) and was encouraged to found the IWW with a small group of fellow rebels the following year.[3]

In his speech to the first IWW convention, Trautmann referred in heavily qualified terms to New Zealand’s political freedom, since that country was then regarded internationally as the exemplar of moderate, state-sponsored socialism based on compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes. This system had quelled union radicalism for almost two decades, but by 1905 it was coming under growing attack from the more radical end of the labor movement, especially larger semi-skilled unions such as the miners, wharfies and seamen, and from the small, combative NZ Socialist Party, which aligned itself with De Leonite revolutionary industrial unionism. IWW ideas first reached New Zealand through the radical literature imported and sold by the Socialist Party. The industrial unionism message was also spread firsthand by transient individuals like the New Zealand-born miner Pat Hickey, who had earlier worked in Montana with the Western Federation of Miners, an IWW-affiliated union. When he returned home, in 1906, Hickey began to organize miners on the West Coast, together with other radicals from Australia. Less than a year after the IWW was formed in the US, the first strikes in 15 years took place in New Zealand mines, and by 1908 the miners’ unions broke away from the compulsory arbitration system to negotiate directly with employers using the strike weapon.[4]

Meanwhile, a militant Wellington watersider named John Dowdall, a keen reader and inveterate public orator, was spreading IWW ideas from his soapbox down on the wharves. In January 1908 he formed an IWW Club, which confirmed Wellington’s waterfront, then the busiest in the country, as a hotbed of activism. Two years later, another IWW Club was formed in Christchurch by militants from the anti-conscription movement. They applied to join the Federation of Labor, the new national body of industrial unions, as a New Zealand branch of the IWW and were admitted in June 1911.[5] Radical orators from abroad were an important impetus for this movement, although Emma Goldman’s keenly anticipated tour in 1909 was cancelled at the last minute after her US citizenship was revoked.6 In the same year the 36-year-old anarcha-feminist Lola Ridge contributed a poem, “The Martyrs of Hell,” to Goldman’s journal Mother Earth, and later became a sensation among New York’s modernist avant-garde. Ridge was formerly married to a New Zealand mine manager and had spent much of her preceding years in small South Island mining towns.[7]

In just a few fiery years the left wing of New Zealand’s labor movement had been reshaped from a timid collection of mainly craft unions working within the state-run arbitration system to a powerful federation of openly radical industrial unions winning their own terms of employment and confidently propagating a worker-run future for the country. The Wobblies were at the hard edge of this movement, especially in Auckland, the country’s biggest city, its first port of call for overseas ships, and a town thronged with young, single men raring for excitement and confrontation. Here the Socialist Party’s radical rhetoric drew huge crowds, but young militants found themselves more attracted to the anti-political Wobblies. Even the Party’s Auckland secretary, a young tram conductor named Tom Barker, defected to the IWW.[8]

This loose-knit band of Auckland Wobblies received a giant boost the day an overseas ship docked in late 1911. Down the gangplank walked three hardened revolutionaries from Canada, including Jack King, who had fled his own country after a strike in Vancouver. They were accompanied by two Englishmen, including twenty-six-year-old Alec Holdsworth, who had both been strongly influenced by the three Canadians during their long voyage. This small and utterly dedicated group made an explosive impact on the fertile Auckland scene. “In a very short time,” says Holdsworth, “Jack was on the street expounding Industrialism (One Big Union) and Marxism in the vernacular.”[9] He was backed up by at least twenty-five local Wobblies, including such striking figures as the openly gay fishmonger, Charlie Reeve, tattooed to the tips of his fingers.10 Every Sunday they drew thousands to their platform down by the wharves. “We had little or no objections around the soapbox,” according to Holdsworth. “Attention was good, collections were good – and we had no other source of income.”11 In early 1912, King left Auckland to spread the Wobbly message around North Island mining towns, eventually settling in Waihi, a company town entirely dependent economically on Australasia’s largest gold mine. There he led a Marxist economics class, enrolled about 30 miners in an IWW local, and played a leading part in a huge strike which soon shut down the mine. Shortly afterwards, King represented the miners at the Federation of Labor’s annual conference and convinced the Federation to adopt the first part of the IWW’s Preamble, “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common,” in its own constitution. His motion for a general strike in support of the Waihi miners was lost, but he won the backing of other delegates including future Prime Minister Peter Fraser who said, “With such propagandists I have no quarrel, whose work must undoubtedly advance the revolutionary working class movement.”[12]

By August 1912, with the Waihi mine still closed by strike action, King’s activities had become so notorious that he left for Australia just ahead of the police and immediately resurrected the Sydney local of the IWW. The mine strike was finally broken after nine bitter months. Many of the strikers and their families were driven out of town by vigilante mobs, and the Auckland Wobblies scoured the countryside to provide food and shelter for them. The IWW marched as a group in the massive funeral demonstration held for a murdered Waihi striker, Fred Evans. Holdsworth says, “We were industrialists, rebels on the job where we happened to be being exploited, and saboteurs if need be, and, instead of parliament, we stood for the One Big Union of the Workers of the World. We never led a strike but were always there.”[13]

He and his fellow Wobblies often travelled to other towns for work, always carrying with them imported IWW literature to help in “sowing the seed” of rebellion. While draining swamps in the farming district of the Waikato, Holdsworth wrote the Kiplingesque “Ballad of the Agitator”, which ends:

There’s never a place where the slave must sweat,
Not a town of soot or sun,
But we dared our worst and we gave our best,
And the work was freely done –
Though no tear be shed o’er our martyr’d dead,
We are ever marching on.[14]

Although New Zealand’s Wobblies were regularly accused by the popular press of sabotage, Holdsworth knew “of no occasion when it was carried out. We propounded it as a means of preventing scabbery, or dealing with it should it occur – it was a warning to both scab and employer. In America it was a different story, and we who had experience of real class war in America liked to tell of the various tricks, to those about us, never from the soapbox; and so the idea was spread.”[15] In place of the saboteur’s matches and dynamite, New Zealand Wobblies relied on the impact of IWW literature such as the Little Red Songbook and pamphlets like Marx’s Value, Price and Profit (translated from German by the bilingual William Trautmann).[16] “All boats from America were met by one or more of us wearing our IWW badge,” says Holdsworth, “in case there should be a Wobbly on board with the appropriate swag. But it was a precarious source of supply, so we set to and got out our own newspaper, the Industrial Unionist.”[17] This, the first IWW periodical in the Southern Hemisphere, was launched as a monthly in February 1913. It supplied industrial news from around the country, reported on JB King’s organizing efforts in Broken Hill, Australia, and printed letters from Hawaii by the somewhat isolated U.S. Wobbly, Albert Roe.[18]

One remarkable feature of the New Zealand Industrial Unionist may make it unique among Wobbly newspapers worldwide and has certainly never been matched in any other labor publication in New Zealand. From its July issue the paper ran regular articles in Maori, the language of New Zealand’s indigenous people. At that time many Maori spoke little or no English, although most were literate in their own language. The New Zealand IWW appears to have had no paid-up Maori members, so these articles were a means of reaching out to the most exploited section of the population. They were written by Percy Short, a member of the paper’s five-man editorial collective who worked as a house painter and licensed interpreter of Maori.19 His articles skillfully combined traditional Maori expressions with translations of IWW propaganda. One acknowledged the devastating loss of land and resources by Maori and said that all New Zealand workers were now placed in a similar condition by the boss class. Just as Maori had violently resisted the loss of their land in the past, now all workers should form a single tribe to recover and retain their possessions.[20] Collectively, these articles amount to an embryonic Marxist economic analysis in the Maori language, using authentically Maori metaphors and cultural values.

By mid-1913 the vigorous Auckland local of the IWW was holding four or five large public meetings a week. In September the English-born Tom Barker, who had taken over from JB King as the group’s guiding spirit, took the message to the rest of the country, riding with the tramps on railway goods wagons.[21] Holdsworth says, “He went without money and was without price. But he had a bundle of potential rebels in his bag – a pile of Industrial Unionists – each one more for the Revolution”.[22] Barker’s first stop was Wellington, where he reported, “I had 11 propaganda meetings in 14 days.” With the help of the stalwart John Dowdall, he was smuggled onto the wharves under the noses of the hostile waterfront police. “I finished on the piles down below, and talked Direct Action to the wharfies….Wellington will be a militant place for an IWW Local in the near future.”[23]

In Christchurch, the “storm centre of anti-militarism,” he found enough active IWW members to form a local immediately, reporting via the Industrial Unionist that “They have a nice room and nicely furnished, and all rebels peregrinating are requested to call in and introduce themselves…We will have half a dozen locals by Christmas, the tendency is all in our direction. The politicians are losing their grip, and the feeling is towards the repudiation entirely of nose counting, and the advocacy of Direct Action, Sabotage and Revolutionary Unionism.”[24] Finally Barker undertook a month-long tour of mining towns along the South Island’s West Coast, “the home of the fighters,” where he sold out the last of his stock of radical literature.[25]

His return journey was interrupted at Wellington by the outbreak of a long-awaited waterfront strike. Barker promptly organized a nonstop program of speakers and music in the public square opposite the wharves and led guerrilla attacks on large parties of mounted strikebreakers recruited from the rural districts. The strike soon spread to other industries and other cities and became the greatest industrial conflagration in New Zealand’s history. The Industrial Unionist now appeared every two or three days, urging workers throughout the country to make this a general strike which would bring down the ferociously anti-union government. Short’s articles told Maori workers, “This is the same government which confiscated your lands and killed your ancestors,” and urged them to join the strike.[26] Perhaps in consequence, very few Maori joined the thousands of strikebreakers, although they had been prominent in helping to break the Waihi strike the previous year.

As the strike grew more violent and widespread, the Industrial Unionist claimed a print-run of 5000 an issue. Barker himself sold 700 copies in a single morning, before being arrested along with other strike leaders and charged with sedition (which carried the death penalty). These arrests and the government’s recruitment of more than ten thousand strikebreakers and “special constables” finally broke the strike and forced the Wobblies to scatter far and wide to avoid retribution. Many left for Australia, including Barker, who jumped bail, and Reeve, who was badly beaten as he boarded his ship. There they both reunited with JB King and reinvigorated the Sydney IWW. Others headed for remote New Zealand communities where they were not known, often becoming active in the shearers’ and other rural unions.

The outbreak a few months later of World War I legitimized continuing persecution of the Wobblies. Some served long jail sentences for opposing conscription; others set up an escape route for conscientious objectors, smuggling them in the coal bunkers of ships to Australia, where conscription was not imposed.[27] However, a nationwide outburst of patriotism, and harsh emergency powers which outlawed strikes in essential industries and banned the importation of “seditious publications” (including the entire output of the IWW) shattered the strong movement which Barker and others had built up.[28]

Slowly, from about 1920, the remnants of New Zealand’s Wobblies began to reassert themselves. A One Big Union (OBU) Council, opposed to the parliamentary ambitions of the newly formed New Zealand Labour Party, began meeting above the shop of a sympathetic Auckland tailor. Its literature secretary, Leo Woods, said, “our activities were modeled along the lines of the IWW and consisted of public speaking and the dissemination of literature.”[29] Much of this printed matter was still banned and smuggled in on ships from Sydney; however, the OBU did not long survive the formation in 1921 of the New Zealand Communist Party, which assumed the leadership of the extreme left and opposed syndicalist views almost as strongly as the Labour Party.

Since then, founding Wobblies like Tom Barker and JB King reappeared occasionally in New Zealand, but their organization was never rebuilt, and the Wobbly strain in the labor movement was confined to determined individuals. One of these, Tom Gale, was a seaman from the Isle of Man who joined the IWW after witnessing police attacks on young female strikers in the silk-weaving plants of Paterson, New Jersey. He arrived in New Zealand in 1922 and had a long career as a rigger in the state railways. Railway workers were then represented by four different unions, and Gale’s attempts to form One Big Union on the railways failed when the four sets of paid officials could not agree on which of them would lose their jobs. In 1932, a period of massive unemployment and spreading fascist influence, he joined the New Zealand Communist Party and was elected to the executive of its Auckland branch, but left after refusing to sign correspondence with slogans such as “All Hail to Comrade Stalin.”[30] Another veteran of the 1913 Paterson silk-weavers’ strike was Alex Scott, the editor of a local newspaper who was convicted of “aiding and abetting hostility to the government.” Although not an IWW member, he was regarded as a valued ally by the U.S. Wobbly paper Solidarity. Arriving in New Zealand in 1922, Scott worked as a crusading journalist and helped establish large cooperatives in the working-class Hutt Valley into the 1940s.[31]

One of the more improbable New Zealand links with the worldwide Wobbly movement was Len de Caux, born in 1899 to a minister of religion serving a wealthy rural congregation in Hawkes Bay. He studied at elite private schools in New Zealand and England and entered Oxford University on a scholarship in 1919. This scion of privilege was radicalized during summer holidays in Europe. One of those, to Turin in 1920, coincided with a workers’ takeover of the auto factories. De Caux read of this in the newspaper L’Ordine Nuovo, in articles by the young Antonio Gramsci. Immediately after graduating, he “brushed from me the cobwebs of Oxford and emigrated to the United States…I’d come to join the working class in a country where class struggle was more brazenly brutal than in England or New Zealand.”[32] Soon de Caux was writing on-the-job articles for the IWW paper Industrial Solidarity, on Great Lakes shipping, Chicago packinghouses and Detroit steel mills, and dodging shotgun-wielding guards in order to ride freight trains to the Midwestern grain harvest. He became one of the leading labor journalists in the US and publicity director of the CIO until he was purged as a communist and blacklisted by the House on Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC). De Caux did not return to New Zealand until 1959, when he saw an old photograph from the turn of the century of the small West Coast mining town where he was born. “It was so startlingly similar to Western American towns around the same period, where the IWW had its start that I realized for the first time that the Wobblies might have had roots in like pioneering conditions in both countries.”[33]

It is this recognition of the universality of labor and its travails that has given the IWW its greatest strength and influence. Resisting all appeals to national pride or ethnic division, the Wobblies worked wherever they could be most effective, and I am persuaded by my research that their impact on New Zealand politics was much wider than has been acknowledged to date. For example, the IWW was greatly admired by those further to the center of the labor movement, who sympathized with the repression the Wobblies faced. In the early 20s a moderate laborite wrote a song called The Popular Scapegoat:

If a boiler blows up or a steamer goes down
Or somebody curses the Cross or the Crown
To find out the culprit, no, don’t let it trouble you
Put it all down to the Eye Double Double -You.[34]

A small number of the original Wobblies resisted joining either New Zealand’s Labour or Communist Parties and never departed from their IWW views. Bill Potter was an activist in the Wellington IWW and a militant in the 1913 strike, who later escaped to Australia where he took part in anti-conscription campaigns and the 1917 Brisbane tram strike. After returning to New Zealand he had a long career as a rank and file unionist, maintaining his IWW philosophy to the end.[35] That’s all I know about Potter, and I know even less about most of the others who have espoused and enacted the Wobbly strain of far-left politics in New Zealand, those spectral, semi-mythical figures whose humor, iconoclasm, commitment to working-class culture and dedication to democratic principle can still provide inspiration for actions in the present and hopes for the future.

Mark Derby is a writer and researcher in Wellington, NZ. He is currently editing a history of the New Zealanders who took part in the Spanish Civil War.


1. H Roth, Trade Unions in New Zealand, AH and AW Reed, 1973, p. 31
2. Proceedings of the First Convention of the IWW, 1905
3. William Trautmann, Fifty Years War, Book #2 1905-1920: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Workers of the World, Trautmann collection, Walter Reuther Library, Detroit. I am indebted to Dr Jay Miller for drawing this important source to my attention, and permitting use of his PhD dissertation Soldier of the Class War - the life and writing of William E Trautmann, Wayne State University, Detroit, 2000.
4. For the formation of the NZ Federation of Labor, see Erik Olssen, The Red Feds – revolutionary industrial unionism and the NZ Federation of Labour 1908-1913, Auckland 1988. For an important contemporary account, see, Pat Hickey, Red Fed Memoirs – being a brief survey of the birth and growth of the Federation of Labour from 1908 to 1915 and the days immediately preceding it, reprinted Wellington Media Collective, 1980, f.p. 1925
5. Olssen, The Red Feds, p. 34 et passim
6. Emma Goldman, Living My Life vol. 1, Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1931, Ch. 34
7 Michelle Leggott, The First Life: A Chronology of Lola Ridge’s Australasian Years, 22 April 2006,
8. Erik Olssen, ‘Tom Barker’, NZ Dictionary of Biography, online edition,
9. A. Holdsworth to H. Roth, ‘Biographical notes – Tom Barker’, MS-Papers – 6164-007, Turnbull Library, Wellington
10. Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism – the Industrial Workers of the World in Australia, Melbourne 1995, p. 39, 95
11. Holdsworth, ibid.
12. H Roth, ‘New Zealand ‘Wobblies’ – the story of the Industrial Workers of the World’, Here and Now, March 1952, p 6-7
13. Holdsworth, ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. William Trautmann, Fifty Years War, p. 158
17. Holdsworth, ibid.
18. ‘Sandwich Islands’, Industrial Unionist, 1 May 1913
19. H. Roth, ‘Biographical notes – Percy Short’, MS-Papers-6164-092, Turnbull Library, Wellington
20. ‘Ki nga kaimahi Maori’, Industrial Unionist, 1 July 1913
21. ‘New Zealand notes’, Industrial Unionist, 1 August 1913
22. Holdsworth, ibid.
23. T. Barker, ‘Around NZ – Organiser’s Notes’, Industrial Unionist, 1 October 1913
24. Ibid.
25. T. Barker, ‘NZ organiser’, Industrial Unionist, 1 November 1913
26. ‘Ki te Iwi Maori Katoa’, Industrial Unionist, 13 November 1913
27. See, eg. Maoriland Worker, 21 September 1921, re departure of former Auckland IWW member Bob Heffron to Australia (where he later became Labor Premier of NSW).
28. H Roth, Trade Unions in New Zealand, AH and AW Reed, 1973, p. 42
29. Leo Woods to H. Roth, ‘Biographical notes – Woods, Leo John,’ MS-Copy-Micro-0714-26, Turnbull Library, Wellington
30. Len Gale, personal communications with author, 2006-7
31. Scott, Alexander, MS-Papers-0209, Turnbull Library, Wellington
32. Len De Caux, Labor Radical – from the Wobblies to the CIO, Beacon Press, Boston, 1970, p. 27
33. L. De Caux to B. Turner, 24 August 1979, MS-Paper-1981, Turnbull Library, Wellington
34. JB Hulbert, ‘The Popular Scapegoat,’ in My Garden and Other Verses, Wellington, 1922
35. Nadine LaHatte (nee Potter), to Mark Derby, email 1 June 2007

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Towards a Constructive Anarchism: the Strategy of Beyond Resistance

In Aotearoa, as around the world, we face many obstacles to the growth of a mass, anarchist communist movement. The forces of capitalism and the state aside, we are up against a society used to the delegation of power to someone else. Politicians, union and community bureacrats, and lobbying are the main channels of current dissent in Aotearoa. Likewise, our highly individualised society — with its loss of community and the increase of isolation, consumption, and apathy — has overshadowed the ideas of direct action, collective decision making, solidarity, and self-organisation. In the workplace we face individual contracts, casualised labour, and a lack of class conciousness; where unions do exist, they are hopelessly reformist and entirely entrenched in the current capitalist structure.

The position of Beyond Resistance is that in order to challenge these current conditions, it is necessary to struggle. But if we are a fighting organisation, then strategy and tactics must be applied. We need to know well our long term objectives and how to overcome these obstacles — the end being to weaken our class enemy, strengthening organs of self-management and dual power, and take concrete tactical steps which bring us closer to a position of breaking with the current system.

Propaganda is necessary to build a visible and vibrant working class movement. But it cannot be the exclusive focus of our efforts — propaganda cannot determine the needs of an organisation; it is the needs of the organisation that have to determine the propaganda.

With this in mind, we must be able to offer constructive and practical action based on our ideas, our methods and our goals. We must work towards a constructive anarchism. Therefore, Beyond Resistance seeks to implement the strategy put forward here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Failure of Nonviolence (and why we must also struggle)

Drawing heavily on thinkers such as Ward Churchill and Errico Malatesta, this zine hopes to illustrate the bankruptcy of limiting struggle to purely nonviolent forms, how tenents of nonviolent thought has been detrimental to breaking with the prevailing order, and why struggle is needed to establish a peaceful society free of violence and exploitation. Download the free print version here

SEARCH ‘THE CRITIQUE of nonviolence’ on Google and your return will be a swag of articles affirming, rather than rejecting, the use of nonviolence as an effective means for social justice. Yet any examination of history (or even a quick look around us today) clearly illustrates the failure of nonviolence as the predominant form of social struggle towards radical, sweeping change. Unfortunately, as the above example shows, nonviolent forms of resistance has a hegemonic hold — peace marches, candle vigils, symbolic protest and ‘nonviolent’ direct action (a contradiction in terms?) are all accepted as the main outlets for dissent.
Drawing heavily on thinkers such as Ward Churchill and Errico Malatesta, this zine hopes to illustrate the bankruptcy of limiting struggle to purely nonviolent forms, how tenets of nonviolent thought have been detrimental to breaking with the prevailing order, and why armed struggle and violence will be a necessity in establishing a free and peaceful society.

“We are on principle opposed to violence and for this reason wish that the social struggle should be conducted as humanely as possible. But this does not mean that we would wish it to be less determined, less thorough; indeed we are of the opinion that in the long run half measures only indefinitely prolong the struggle, neutralising it as well as encouraging more of the kind of violence which one wishes to avoid” — Errico Malatesta

THIS IS NOT a critique of nonviolence per se, but the pacifist position which limits all forms of social struggle to purely nonviolent ones. I have personally experienced meetings with ‘pacifists’ who shout down or banter anyone who would dare to put forward even the slightest hint of ‘violent’ action. “Not only are pacifists of this sort unwilling to fight back — which of course is their prerogative — and not only are they unwilling to consider fighting back — which is still their prerogative — but far more harmfully they cannot allow anyone else to consider fighting back either.” Ignoring and rejecting a wide range of options for social struggle, they have no qualms about restricting others from those options as well.
By restraining themselves and others to a narrow band of ritualistic and symbolic forms of struggle, pacifists negate the potential flexibility in confronting the state. As Ward Churchill points out: “within this narrow band, actions become entirely predictable rather than offering the utility of surprise. The balance of physical power thus inevitably rests with the state on an essentially permanent basis, and the possibility of liberal social transformation is correspondingly diminished to a point of nonexistence.” This close-mindedness and intolerance for any tactics save their own is harmful in many ways. It decreases the possibility of effective synergy between various forms of resistance, it creates the illusion that we are really accomplishing something while the state continues to perpetuate violence, and it positively helps those in power.
Again, Churchill notes: “There is not a petition campaign that you can construct that is going to cause the power and the status quo to dissipate. There is not a legal action that you can take; you can’t go into the court of the conqueror and have the conqueror announce the conquest to be illegitimate and to be repealed; you cannot vote in an alternative, you cannot hold a prayer vigil, you cannot burn the right scented candle at the prayer vigil, you cannot have the right folk song, you cannot have the right fashion statement, you cannot adopt a different diet, build a better bike path. You have to say it squarely: the fact that this power, this force, this entity, this monstrosity called the state, maintains itself by physical force, and can be countered only in terms that it itself dictates and therefore understands.”

“Pacifists eliminates choice and responsibility by labeling great swaths of possibility off limits for action and even for discussion. ‘See how pure I am for making no wrong choices?’ they say, while in reality facing no choices at all. And of course they are actually making choices. Choosing inaction — or ineffective action — in the face of exploitation and violence is about as impure an action anyone can conceptualise.” — Anon

SO WHAT ARE some common pacifist positions, how are they justified, and what is the logical results of their (non) acts?
Firstly, pacifists tell us the ends never justify the means. As Derrick Jensen points out, this is a statement of values disguised as a statement of morals. “It becomes absurd to make absolute statements about means and ends, as there are some ends that justify some means, and there are some ends that do not.” We must make these distinctions or be confined to mere slogans.
“Pacifists tell us that violence only begets violence. This is manifestly not true.” Violence can beget many things — currently it begets submission, material wealth, and power — but it could also beget liberation, freedom and the end of all violence.
Pacifists tell us, “we must be the change we wish to see”. This ultimately meaningless statement manifests the magical thinking of those unwilling to engage in reality, unwilling to give up their privilege,
and unwilling to struggle. We can change ourselves all we want, and all the while we (and others) continue to be exploited, governed and oppressed. This line of thinking does nothing to challenge, halt or abolish the concrete power held over the majority of this world.
“Pacifists tell us that if you use violence against exploiters, you become like they are. This cliche, once again, is absurd, with no relation to the real world. It is based on the flawed notion that all violence is the same. It is obscene to suggest that a women who kills a man attempting to rape her becomes like the rapist.”
“Pacifists tell us that violence never accomplishes anything. This argument, even more than the others, reveals how completely, desperately and arrogantly out of touch many dogmatic pacifists are with physical, emotional and spiritual reality.”
If violence accomplishes nothing, how is it that entire cultures have been exploited and eradicated? How is it that we live under an economic system which forces wage slavery upon the majority, while a few in power profit? How is it that the real violence of poverty still exists in an overproducing and overstocked society? Violence works for those in power — dreadfully well. To say that violence never accomplishes anything not only degrades the suffering of those harmed by violence, but it also devalues the triumphs of those who have fought back out of exploitative situations.
“Pacifists tell us that violence alienates people. If so, are we to refrain from engaging in anything but passive acts of protest because this will win popular support? If this is the case, why, after years of consistent nonviolent protest, no qualitative growth, and only the slightest quantitative, has occurred within movements for social change?” Catering our activity to a perceived perception (which may not even be accurate) of the level of resistance acceptable to people — far from being revolutionary — is in fact counter to the development of revolutionary consciousness, and reduces the level of both.
All successful moments of social revolution have included violent resistance to those in power. To ignore or to claim otherwise is either a sign of a pathological problem, naivety, arrogance, or plain delusion.

“Frightened by the revolutionary threat to the fundamental institutions of their society — tradition, property, and privilege — the ruiling elite turned to the only weapon it understood: violence” — Stuart Christie

THESE VARIOUS POSITIONS combine to serve the interests of the ruiling elite. Not only are they nonsensical, they are harmful to revolutionary movements for social change. Absurdity clearly abounds when suggesting that the state will refrain from using all necessary physical force to protect against undesired forms of change and threats to its existence.
“Pacifists imply that the ‘immoral state’ which they seek to transform will somehow exhibit exactly the same sort of ‘superior’ morality they claim for themselves. Insisting that certain tactics should avoid ‘provoking violence’ (when it is already massive) or that by remaining nonviolent they can’morally compel’ the state to respond in kind must be considered delusional.”
As history has shown, “there simply has never been a revolution, or a substantial social reorganisation, brought into being on the basis of the prnciples of pacifism. In every instance, violence has been an integral requirement of the process of transforming the state. Pacifist praxis, if followed to its logical conclusions, leaves its adherents with but two possible outcomes of their line of action:

1 — to render themselves perpetually ineffectual (and unthreatening) in the face of state power, in which case they will likely to be largely ignored by the staus quo and self-eliminating an terms of revolutionary potential,
2 — to make themselves a clear and apparent danger to the state, in which case they are subject to physical liquidation by the staus quo and are self-eliminating in terms of revolutionary potential.

“In either event — mere ineffectuality or suicide — the objective conditions leading to the necessity for social revolution remain unlikely to be changed. The mass suffering that revolution is intended to alleviate will continue as the revolution strangles itself on the altar of nonviolence.”

Unfortunately, we have been brought up on parlor games, where participants discuss whether or not they are ‘for’ or ‘against violence’. Can you picture a similar discussion on whether we are for or against disease? Violence, class struggle, and disease are all real. They do not go away through mystification... those who deny the reality of violence and class struggle are not dealing with the real world”
— Blase Bonpare

PACIFISM SEEKS TO project itself as a radical alternative to the staus quo. Yet such a movement that has forced
approximately zero substantial changes upon the state must be overcome. This is not to say that we should replace hegemonic pacifism with a cult of terror, terrorism and violent bloodlust. Instead, as Churchill notes, “it is the realisation that in order to be effective and ultimately successful, any revolutionary movement must develop the broadest possibel range of thinking/action by which to confront the state.” A hollistc approach to social change is needed.
A number of nonviolent activities must be amongst our revolutionary tool box, but there is no place for dogmatic pacifism to preclude the utilisation of violence as a legitimate and necessary method of achieving liberation. It is obvious that in order to bring about concrete social change, violence has a (albeit unwelcomed) part to paly.

“No ruling class in history has ever relinquished its power without struggle. Power will be taken from them by the conscious, autonomous action of the working class themselves and will be a time of violence as well as liberation. The idea that socialism can be achieved peacefully, or by a revolutionary elite acting ‘on behalf of’ the working class is both absurd and reactionary. — Beyond Resistance

“ANARCHISTS ARE OPPOSED to every kind of violence” states Malatesta. “The main plank of Anarchism is the removal of violence from human relations. It is life based on the freedom of the individual, without the intervention of the state. For this reason we are enemies of capitalism, which depends on the protection of the state to oblige workers to allow themselves to be exploited — or even to remain idle and go hungry when it is not in the interest of the bosses to exploit them. We are therefore enemies of the state, which is the coercive, violent organisation of society.”
“But if one declares that they believe it stupid and barbarous to argue with a stick in their hand; that it is unjust and evil to oblige a person to obey the will of another at pistol point, it is, perhaps, reasonable to deduce that that person intends to allow themself to be beaten up and be made to submit to the will of another without having recourse to more extreme means for their defence?”
“Violence is justifiable when it is necessary to defend oneself and others from violence. The slave is always in a state of legitimate defence and consequently, their violence against the boss, against the oppressor, is always justifiable, and must be controlled only by such considerations as that the best and most economical use is being made of human effort and human sufferings.”
“This revolution must of necessity be violent, even though violence is in itself an evil. It must be violent because a transitional, revolutionary violence is the only way to put an end to the far greater, and permanent, violence which keeps the majority of mankind (sic) in servitude.”
A month of non-revolution is infinitely more bloody than a week of revolution. To rule out violence on both moral and tactical grounds enables a much greater violence to continue — the violence of coercion, authority and exploitation used by capitalism and the state.
It is a truism that the only limit to the oppression of government is the power with which the people resist it. The only reason Ghandi and Martin Luther King were succesful was because their protest was the ‘lesser evil’ when compared with other forms of resistance (ie violent ones). Ghandi’s success must be viewed in light of the existance of violent peripheral processes — the general decline in British power brought about by two world wars within a thirty year period. Likewise, King’s nonviolent movement quickly became the lesser of two evils when confronted with a black liberation movement ready to resort to armed self-defence.
Our task, as revolutionaries, is to break the strangle hold pacifism has on the majority of the working class and our forms of resistance. Lobbying simply isn’t enough. “It is abundantly clear that violence is needed to resist the violence of the state, and we must advocate and prepare it, if we do not wish the present situtaion of slavery in disguise, in which most humanity finds itself, to continue and worsen. We are not pacifists because peace is not possible unless it is desired by both sides. We consider violence a necessity and a duty for defence. And we mean not only for defence against direct, sudden, physical attack, but against all those institutions that use force to keep people in a state of servitude. We are, above all, against governement, which is permanent violence.”


The majority of this essay was compiled directly from Pacifism as Pathology by Ward Churchill (AK Press, 1998) and Anarchism and Violence by Errico Malatesta (Zabalaza Books). For further reading I would reccomend these and

Friday, October 23, 2009

Free NZ films to celebrate Labour Day!

Workers of New Zealand unite!

While you’re relaxing this long weekend, take some time out to reflect on the reason you’re enjoying a holiday and check out NZ On Screen’s collection of Labour Day related titles.

Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. In 1840, carpenter Samuel Parnell won a world-leading eight-hour day for workers in the Wellington settlement: “It must be on these terms or none at all!”

The collection includes the John Bates documentary 1951 (about the 1951 waterside workers strike), which won Best Documentary and Best Director at the 2002 NZ Television Awards.

1997 TV Awards winner Revolution is also included. Produced by Marcia Russell, this four part series about the sweeping economic and social changes of the 1980s is available in full.

Campaigning filmmaker Alister Barry’s two highly-acclaimed political documentaries Someone Else’s Country (The Dominion: "alarmingly enlighening") and In a Land of Plenty offer critical perspectives on the same era.

In the famous 1970 Gallery episode Brian Edwards resolves a long-running Post Office industrial dispute live on air.

The collection also shows classic National Film Unit titles - To Live in the City (1967), Railway Worker (1948), The Coaster (1950) and Coal From Westland (1943). To Live in the City follows four young Māori - Ripeka, Moana, Grace and Phillip - as they transition from school, whānau and rural life to the city.

Railway Worker covers 24 hours of work on the railways and was made by New Zealand’s first female director, Margaret Thomson. The Coaster was written by the poet Denis Glover and narrated by Selwyn Toogood and became famous as the film which led to Cecil Holmes losing his job, after its content riled unionist Fintan Patrick Walsh.

NZ On Screen is the NZ On Air-funded website set up last year to showcase New Zealand television and film. You can see the Labour Day Collection, and over 700 other titles, free of charge at

Beyond Resistance Hui: a summary

Members of Beyond Resistance recently gathered in a not-so-secret location in Taylors Mistake, Otautahi/Christchurch, for our very first internal hui. The Catholic Worker bach, while a bit 'rustic' suited our needs very well — the amazing view which greeted our reprise from discussion made up for any other faults, not to mention 'the confessional' (the toilet...).

Over the course of the weekend we managed to discuss, develop and finalise a lot of ideas we've been throwing about in the short time we've existed as a collective. After a few drinks and a movie on the Friday night, we got down to some serious pow wow on Saturday, kicking off with an in depth round about ourselves, our pasts, and our ideas. Session two was dedicated to our Aims & Principles, which helped consolidate our collective perspective and gauge where we are in terms of individual understandings (you can check them out here). That evening we held an open session for anyone to attend, which was filled with films, beer and all-around banter.

Sunday was dedicated to group strategy, something we feel has been lacking in a lot of past groups we've all been involved in. It's easy to know what you are against and react accordingly, but it's harder to vocalise (and put into practice) what you are for — so we talked extensively on what we felt constitutes a constructive anarchism. Tino Rangatiratanga, feminist praxis, dual power, industrial networks and community assemblies were the main focus, from which we have developed a strategy paper for the collective. This paper, 'Towards a Constructive Anarchism' will be published shortly.

We also finalised How We Work, including things like conflict resolution, responsibilities, and membership. We now have a membership form where you can indicate whether you'd like to be a support member, or a core member. We have the two types of membership because we recognise that time and energy can't always be spared, and hope to include those interested accordingly. If you'd like to find out more about this, please click here.

It was a great weekend, filled with lots of laughs and lofty aims. We in Beyond Resistance look forward to sharing the outcomes gained over the course of the weekend, and most importantly, the struggle ahead.

In solidarity,

Beyond Resistance

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Film and fundraiser for Oct.15th arrestees


On Monday, October 15th 2007, more than 300 police carried out dawn raids on dozens of houses all over Aotearoa / New Zealand. Police claim the raids were in response to 'concrete terrorist threats' from indigenous activists. 20 people are facing charges under the Arms Act, in a trial that could take several years.

Beyond Resistance is proud to present Tuhoe: History of Resistance, the fiery account of Tuhoe’s resistance to the NZ Governement and its volatile relationship with the Crown, in rememberence of the State Terror Raids of 2007. Presented to mark the 3rd anniversary of the raids, all proceeds from the night will go to the ongoing struggle of the arrestees and their defense fund.

"The Tuhoe people of the Urewera region have suffered since a Crown invasion and persecution from the 1860s. It is a Sunday in January of 2005 in the Ruatoki valley. A Waitangi Tribunal hearing has been called. Tuhoe are waiting to meet the visitors many are on horseback. Determined to remind the Crown of these many wrongdoings, Tuhoe have come out in force. Robert Pouwhare’s film documents and records that day.

Tame Iti elaborates "We wanted them to feel the heat and smoke, and Tuhoe outrage and disgust at the way we have been treated for 200 years, (The Crown) destroyed people's homes and burned their crops and we wanted them to feel that yesterday. We wanted to demonstrate to them what it feels like being powerless. The confiscation and subsequent colonisation have had a devastating effect on Tuhoe over the past 100 years."

Reflecting on the day Iri Akarana-Rewi of Ngapuhi says "Maori culture has lost something, it has become catalogued and contained on performance stages at kapa haka festivals, Tuhoe have taken it off the stage and used it to challenge the powers that be and here it is where it should be in all its honest intensity, in the valleys, on the roads and streets a functioning part of everyday life. My uncle once said that the struggle of people against power was the same as the struggle of remembering against forgetting. Today Tuhoe has chosen not to forget, today Tuhoe has shown us the way."

Watch the trailer here:

Food, drinks and childcare will be provided, so come on down and join your local anarchists as part of our monthly film nights at the WEA! Zines, books and more will also be available on the night thanks to the lovely folks at Katipo Books.

Thursday 29th October, 6.30pm.
WEA (59 Gloucester Street), Otautahi/Christchurch.

$5 entry — all proceeds to the October 15th defense fund.

Film length:
60 minutes

For more information contact:

otautahianarchists (at)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

October 15th Solidarity screenprint

Haven't designed anything in a wee while, so when I was asked to design the poster for the upcoming October 15th Solidarity Exhibition and Auction I had to dust off the inner cobwebs, so to speak. Quite happy with the result, which I will hand screenprint this week at SRA2 size (640mm x 540mm). Trying to get the third colour from overprinting the red onto black, which I haven't done in that particular combo, so we'll see how it goes! Not sure if you can make it out, but the lovely gentleman featured is our very own Police Commissioner Howard Broad.

Make sure you try and get down to the exhibition, check out the full events on offer, and show you support for the arrestees of the October 15th 2007 state terror raids.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Radical Activism Visual Archive

I check in quite a bit at my friend Alexis' site, the Radical Activism Visual Archive — there's often new posters on there from around the world. Found these two which I simply had to share!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Surveillance of Activists in Auckland

"Whoever the nutcases behind this surveillance are the implications are worrying. This surveillance is obviously aimed at building a detailed database of active political activists in New Zealand. Whether police or private this information will no doubt be used to target political activists and hinder campaigns where possible. Auckland activists have seen a constant stream of arrests almost none of which are ever taken to trial. Thompson and Clark are still trying to infiltrate activist groups around New Zealand and are paid by companies to sabotage campaigns by whatever means they can."

Today Auckland animal rights activists held a protest against the fur trade. The protest outside the Norwegian consulate was in response to a recent expose of Norwegian fur farms. The protest had been widely advertised and was completely public. Around ten of us were holding placards and leafleting passers by. During the protest a photographer for the listener approached us and told us that a photographer was in a car across the road with a long lens taking photos of the demo.

Immediately I headed across the road with a camera. As I neared the car the driver took off at high speed. At the next intersection the driver got stuck in a red light. As pedestrians crossed the road I took a couple of photos of the car and driver. To avoid having his photo taken the driver pulled his shirt completely over his head. While people were still crossing in front of his car he accelerated suddenly and then had to break heavily, coming dangerously close to running the pedestrians over. When he accelerated there were three people directly in front of his car. He was obviously driving blind. After this rather than stopping he sped through a red light.

All of this took place in front of a police car on the opposite side of the intersection which immediately did a u turn and turned on its lights and siren. The driver continued driving for a block and went around the corner. By the time I had caught up the driver of the car was being talked to by a police officer. The driver still had his shirt pulled partially over his head. I explained to the second officer who I was and why I had been trying to take photos of this guy. The first officer came over and told the second officer “This guy was taking photos of this protest and didn’t want his photo taken”. The police did not arrest the driver and allowed him to leave. I do not know if he received a fine....

Walking back to the protest I came across two men with radios, tinted shades and an expensive camera. The men were standing near to where the driver had been parked whilst photographing the protest. I overheard them trying to find out where the driver had gone. After taking a few quick photos of these two I rejoined the protest which went on as planned.

The surveillance was either being carried out by the New Zealand police or by a private security company. The most obvious example of a private company is Thompson and Clark. This company specialises in infiltrating and monitoring protest organisations. Famously employed by SOE Solid Energy this company uses infiltrators to help big business quash protest campaigns.

Whoever the nutcases behind this surveillance are the implications are worrying. This surveillance is obviously aimed at building a detailed database of active political activists in New Zealand. Whether police or private this information will no doubt be used to target political activists and hinder campaigns where possible. Auckland activists have seen a constant stream of arrests almost none of which are ever taken to trial. Thompson and Clark are still trying to infiltrate activist groups around New Zealand and are paid by companies to sabotage campaigns by whatever means they can.

An example of how the kind of photographs taken today may be used is illustrated by a poster we came across a few years ago. The poster contained about 50 photos of animal rights activists and was being delivered to fashion shops across Auckland. Many of the photos on the poster had been taken covertly at protests. At the bottom of the poster is a caption reading “If you have any information on any of the mentioned Activists/Protesters, then forward all details through to Detective Mike Cartwright, Harlech House, 482 Great South Road …”. Michael Cartwright was at the time a member of the “Threat Assesment Unit” Set up post 9/11 to monitor domestic threats to security. Despite being 16 at the time and having no convictions then or since I was included on the poster. Many of the other people on the poster had never been to an animal rights demo and were shocked to see themselves on it. Obviously this poster and similar activity is not aimed at solving any criminal activity but rather at long term profiling of Activists.

Neither is this surveillance limited to Auckland. In Wellington last month counter terrorist unit officer Richard Grover was caught hiding in a carpark photographing Foie Gras protesters. At the same time John Campbell of Provision security was also attempting to photograph the half dozen protesters. The full story at:

I don’t think surveillance should stop or even slow down the protest movement. We need to keep doing what we are doing openly and proudly, we have nothing to hide. However I think it is important to expose state and corporate surveillance where we can.

I don’t think Activists or the public should put up with this kind of activity. Attending a picket or holding a placard should not result in you being added to a data base.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wahi and the Wobblies! Film night

"Fire Your Boss!"... "Abolish the wage system!"

With their revolutionary slogans, union cards, and a swag of 'silent agitators' (stickers, posters etc), the Industrial Workers of the World, aka the Wobblies, took to organizing the working class into the 'OBU' (one big union). In the process of challenging capitalism and fighting for workplace democracy, the Wobblies were one of the few unions to be racially and sexually integrated, and were often met with imprisonment, violence, and the privations of prolonged strikes. Their influence was worldwide, having an effect on New Zealand's militant labour unions of the early 20th century and Aotearoa struggles such as the 1912 Waihi Strike.

Beyond Resistance is proud to present The Wobblies, an award-winning film which takes a provocative look at the history of this radical union and the concepts of Revolutionary Unionsim, screening the unforgettable and still-fiery voices of Wobbly members — lumberjacks, migratory workers, and silk weavers —in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Eerily echoing current times, The Wobblies boldly investigates a world torn by naked corporate greed and the red-hot rift between the industrial masters and the rabble-rousing workers in the field and factory. Replete with song and gorgeous archival footage, the film pays tribute to workers who took the ideals of equality and free speech seriously enough to die for them.

And as a special treat, we will also be screening the world premier of Black Tuesday, a short film on the Waihi Strike of 1912 — one of Aotearoa's most violent (and fatal) industrial struggles.

Watch the Wobblies trailer here:

Food, drinks and childcare will be provided, so come on down and join your local anarchists as part of our monthly film nights at the WEA! Zines, books and more will also be available on the night thanks to the lovely folks at Katipo Books.

Thursday 24 September, 6.30pm.
WEA (59 Gloucester Street), Otautahi/Christchurch.

Entry by Koha/donation.

Film length: 86 minutes

For more information contact:
otautahianarchists (at )

See you then!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Anarchist posters: Spain 1936 and more

I recently stumbled upon a french site which has an amazing collection of anarchist graphic work, from the times of the Paris Commune and the Spanish Revolution, through to May 68 and today. Posters are heavily featured, but anarchist stamps, money (if you can call it that), broadsheets and publications are all there too. The collection of Mujeres Libres and anarchist CNT-FAI posters from the Spanish Revolution are simply dazzling; as a (sometimes) poster maker it's truly inspiring to see the quality of both the craft and content of theses works.

Use google to translate the site from French to English, or simply let the visuals do the talking.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

NDU strike: boycott Pack n Save/New World

From NDU: Give support to 220 striking NDU Foodstuffs DC workers who are walking off the job across the South Island on Thursday afternoon (3rd September) in protest at the lack of any offer from Foodstuffs South Island to improve their wages and conditions.

After 6 months of fruitless negotiations NDU members will not only walk off the job, they intend to also protest outside the supermarkets owned by some of the Foodstuffs Board members.

Despite negotiations commencing in February the company has consistently refused to improve the wages and conditions of members at negotiations. By offering nothing – no wage increase, no improved conditions – it has made a mockery of a genuine bargaining process.

The Union believes the company is acting in bad faith and is using the recession rhetoric to prevent legitimate and well overdue pay rises. By contrast, Foodstuffs’ main competitor Progressive Enterprises (owners of Woolworths, Countdown and Foodtown) supermarkets pays $3-$4 more per hour for doing the same work.

Foodstuffs controls 57% of the NZ supermarket industry. All members are asking for is a fair decent living wage (sic).

The Union hopes to get the support from members of the public thru signing a Public petition (attached) calling on CEO Steve Anderson (who earns $18,000 per week) to share some.

In Christchurch, these places will be:

Halswell New World
Owned by Barry Gray.
Where: 346-360 Halswell Road, Christchurch
Time: 12.30 – 2.30pm

Northlands Pak n Save
Owned by Stephen Boock.
Where: Northlands Shopping Centre, Main North Road/Sissons Drive, Papanui
Time: 2.15 – 4.00pm

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Make Your Own Tea!

I hadn't read this before, but I would recommend it to anyone (if they haven't already). Make Your Own Tea by Alice Nutter in the last issue of Class War, is a great text on radical feminism, anarchism and class struggle.

"This piece is written for all revolutionaries. This is not the token 'women's bit' that's stuck in for the sake of appearances. This is an attempt to look at how and why the Left, and Class War in particular, has not just failed to attract women, but alienated, patronised and looked upon them as a minority group. How can half the working class be treated as a minority? We're not claiming that we have solutions for the gender imbalance but we are saying that it's time to stop ignoring the problem. Any revolutionary movement which doesn't address why there are so few women in its ranks isn't a true revolutionary movement, just a complacent reflection of the status quo."

I liked these points in particular:

"The new right wants us in the traditional wifey mode, but it also wants our wage labour. The post-feminist line is that the modern women can have freedom through work, and still have the 'fulfilment' of running a home. Capitalism needs women to work. The far right's shift to economic 'rationalism' and the expansion of the low-paid service industries mean that cheap labour is always in demand. And as far as capital is concerned, nothing comes cheaper than women. Capitalism's motto is: if you want to shell out less money and make more profits, employ women - they're worth less.

Nine out of ten single parents are women, and even in two parent households many women are the main bread-winner; yet capitalism still pretends that women's wages are 'pin money.' Women don't need a living wage, because we don't actually have to live off it. Despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, men are still seen as the main 'providers'. Our wages pay for the little extras: food, shelter and warmth. And as we get older, in a society which judges women on appearance, we become worthless."


"In 81 per cent of (two adult) homes where a woman works full-time, she's still responsible for the washing and ironing and the bulk of the domestic jobs. Maybe 'we've made it' means the beds. We're still acting as unpaid domestic servants; the only real change is that many men think they do more. There's a million excuses for why not, but men rarely take an equal share of cooking and household chores. Revolutionary groups seldom address the day-to-day inequalities in their own kitchens. Issues around housework are seen as trivial. Twenty years ago the expression for it was 'women's work'. Lefty 'man' may claim to be fighting for the freedom of mankind, but that doesn't mean he wants his girlfriend to stop doing his washing.

Part of the problem is that housework has been tagged 'personal politics'. 'Personal' like 'middle class' is just another way of saying irrelevant to the overall struggle. Class War has always understood that 'politics' is about improving the day-to-day realities of our lives. Unfortunately, that understanding doesn't seem to extend to women. Too often issues are prioritised on the grounds of whether or not they make men feel heroic. Rioting does; shopping doesn't. Washing up just doesn't get the adrenalin going: ask any woman."

final paragraphs:

"There's not much incentive for women to join revolutionary groups when the general ethos is: you can fight our battles but we're not interested in yours.

Women join revolutionary organisations because they want to change the whole of society not just the sexist bit. But to survive within them we end up having to 'put up and shut up'. Just because we've prioritised class and capitalism as major oppressions doesn't mean that we don't give a shit about gender.

The old chestnut about 'single issues' distracting the focus of the struggle has been dragged out too many times when women's struggles come up. The anti-JSA campaign or prisoner support are 'single issues'; race, class and gender aren't. We can't pick up and put down our class, our skin colour or our sex. Whatever comes after Class War needs to take a less one-dimensional approach. We don't know what will make a unified movement, but we do know what won't: ignorance.

No one is 'just' working class, 'just' a woman, 'just' black. Our politics are a mesh of different experiences, and half the time there's no cosy alliance between our different oppressions. A women's experiences under patriarchy help shape her perceptions of class. We've been guilty of pretending that working class men and women would all live happily ever after once we've banished capitalism. Not if we still have one half serving the other half. Life isn't simple. Those who are our comrades in one area may well turn out to be against us in another. When conflict comes up we're forced to say what matters most; sometimes it's our class and sometimes it isn't. We have to acknowledge difficulties before we can start to deal with them. We don't know if we can resolve these dilemmas but we're certainly willing to try."