Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hellnation: band of the week...

This is what I'm listening to at the moment... thrashcore/powerviolence band Hellnation from Kentucky. And no, he's not using a double-kicker. Happy fucking New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Canterbury Recruiting Union IWW: letters to Maoriland Worker

The following are transcribed letters from the Canterbury Recruiting Union IWW to the Maoriland Worker during 1911. The IWW in Christchurch formed after splitting from the New Zealand Socialist Party in 1910:
The city’s branch of the Socialist Party had no money in their social and general accounts, while the Literature Committee, which operated on a separate fund, had full coffers. Needing money for an upcoming election campaign, a motion was passed to join the three accounts together:
Unfortunately for this scheme the membership of the Literature Committee were anarchist to a man, and had no use for elections… Immediately the meeting concluded the Literature Committee went to work. By the small hours of the following morning they had completed their labours, which consisted of the ordering of over £100 worth of pamphlets and booklets… when they had finished, their finances were in the same state as the rest of the branch.42
Not surprisingly, at the following meeting the resignation of the Literature Committee was called for. The anarchists in question cheerfully left the Party and promptly formed themselves into a branch of the IWW. Some months later a rather large amount of wicker hampers packed with printed material started arriving from overseas—the second result of the Literature Committee’s nocturnal activities.
—Remains to Be Seen, Jared Davidson

They seem to have died out, only to be revived again by a visit from Tom Barker in September 1913, with Ernie Kear (the late-secretary of the Passive Resisters Union) becoming secretary of the CHCH IWW (Local 2) and opening their HQ at 180 Cashel Street. They had large meetings at the Addington Workshops, The Clock Tower, and Cathedral Square, as well as holding joint meetings with the PRU.

In both groups anarchist Syd Kingsford played a prominent part, becoming the literature secretary and distributing anarchist papers supplied to him by Philip Josephs (Wellington). In 1913 he was fined with Barker for obstruction—speaking at an IWW meeting from a soapbox at the Clock Tower.

11 June 1911

I think the time has come to have IWW clubs in the four large centres and any industrial district where there are Industrial Unionists, in order to organise and educate the workers of New Zealand for the NZ branch of the IWW; also to make house to house free distribution of papers and books on Industrial Unionism and to supply matters on Industrial Unionism for the workers. I think the members fee should be 1s per month. It would be a good idea to import the best books on Industrial Unionism from America. I think it would be useless to hustle Political Action for the workers without a strong drilled army of Industrial Workers to back demands.

23 June 1911

Dear Comrade,—In this week’s issue Fellow-worker Sweeny advocates the formation of IWW Clubs in the four centres. I have to inform him that in Christchurch we formed a club nine months ago, and have sinced changed it to a recruiting union of the IWW. We have adopted the preamble and as far as possible the constitution of the IWW of America (V. St. John, secretary), are carrying on a propaganda for Industrial Unionism. We have just decided to supply THE WORKER (MW) with matter on Revolutionary Unionism, and the first installment will be sent along shortly. Workers requiring the latest pamphlets on Industrial Unionism may obtain them from me. I think Fellow-worker Sweeny’s idea is a good one and would be pleased to supply a copy of our preamble and constitution to anyone interested.
—Yours in revolt, SYD. KINGSFORD.
107 Riccarton road, Christchurch.

23 June 1911

Canterbury Recruiting Union—At the monthly business meeting, fellow-worker P.Hickey of THE WORKER was present by invitation. He addresses the meeting re enlisting unions’ support for THE WORKER. At the conclusion of an instructive and interesting discussion, the unions agreed to take 3 dozen WORKER per week. F.W.Shepherd’s resignation of the office of general secretary was accepted with regret, and S.J.Roscoe elected to fill the vacancy. A committee was set up to supply the WORKER with literature on Industrial Unionism.
At a special meeting the business was re-forming ourselves into a recruiting union of the NZFL. The idea being to circulate trade unions in and around Christchurch asking them to receive speakers who would place the case for Industrial Unionism before them. After considerable discussion, the following motion was carried: “That this union take a ballot of the members re joining the NZFL; also that each member be supplied with 3 copies of THE WORKER, so that they are clearly understand the Federation’s position’”.
S.J.ROSCOE, secretary.

21 July 1911

S.J.Roscoe, Secretary-treasurer Canterbury Recruiting Union IWW reports that a ballottaken by the branch re joining the NZFL was carried overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal.

1 September 1911

(letter by Kingsford in reply to an article by H.J.Hawkins, General Secretary IWW Clubs of Australia, NSW Executive on 4 August, who claims the CHCH group and those of the Chicago IWW are “frauds”, “bogus”, “fakirs”, “slum proletariats”, “Anarchists”…)


Dear Comrade,—I notice an extract in this week’s WORKER from a letter sent to you by H.J.Hawkins, relating to a “crowd of anarchists” in Christchurch. I do not know if you know the history of the IWW and the incidents that happened at the 4th Convention in 1908, but if you want any vindication of our claim to unofficially representing the IWW in New Zealand I can supply you with all the particulars. I am in possession of information to show you that the IWW (Vincent St.John, General Secretary and treasurer) is the real IWW, and the SLP and its supporters left the organisation in 1908 and started an imitation one with the same name. Just let me know if you are interested, and I will send you full particulars.
—Yours in revolt, SYD KINGSFORD, Literature Secretary, Christchurch IWW Unions. PS—this letter is quite unofficial
(no space to enter into the matter—Ed.)

Red Ruffians Archive

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Interference Archive

An amazing new radical archive/library/cultural space, the Interference Archive, opens this week in Brooklyn New York. Dara Greenwald, Josh MacPhee, Molly Fair, and Kevin Caplicki (as well as all the other people that have helped) have been working all Fall and Winter on the space, and it looks incredible. It's not just an archive—workshops and events will be a regular feature of the space, relating yesterday's struggles to today's context. From their website:

The Interference Archive explores the relationship between cultural production and social movements. This work manifests in public exhibitions, a study center, talks, screenings, publications, workshops, and an on-line presence. The archive consists of many kinds of objects that are created as part of social movements: posters, flyers, publications, photographs, moving images, audio recordings, and other printed matter. Through creative exhibitions and corresponding public programming, we use this cultural ephemera to animate histories of people mobilizing for social transformation.

New Zealand needs a similar space, and is something I've been passionate about for a while. Here's hoping! Congrats to the NYC crew for making such a space available. Here's a few pics, but more can be seen here.

Exploitation or Oppression/Subordination?

I thought I would share 'Exploitation or Oppression/Subordination?', a section from Maria Mies' excellent book Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women and the International Division of Labour, because it was really interesting and makes clear the common (and uncommon) usages of the terms by feminists and class struggle folks. 

"In the feminist discourse words are used to denoate and explain the problem women are suffering from in our societies. The terms 'subordination' and 'oppression' are widely used to specify women's position in a hierarchically structured system and the methods of keeping them down. These concepts are used by women who would call themselves radical feminists as well as by those who come from a Marxist background or call themselves Marxist or socialist feminists. The latter usually do not talk of exploitation when discussing the problems of women because exploitation to them is a concept reserved for economic exploitation of the wage-worker under capitalism. As women's grievances go beyond those of wage-workers and part of the 'private' man-woman relation, which is not seen as an exploitative one, but an oppressive one, the term exploitation is avoided.

In the following discussion I shall, however, use the term expoitation to identify the root cause of the oppressive man-woman relationship. The reasons for this usage are the following:

When Marx specifies the particular capitalist form of exploitation which, according to him, consists in the appropriation of surplus labour by the capitalists, he uses this general term in a specific narrow sense. But 'exploitation'... has a much wider connotation. In the last analysis it means that someone gains something by robbing someone else or is living at the expense of someone else. It is bound up with the emergence of men's dominance over women and the dominance of one class over others, or one people over others.

If we do not talk of exploitation when we talk of the man-woman relationship, our talk about oppression, or subordination hangs somewhere in the air, for why should men be oppressive towards women if they had nothing to gain from it? Oppression or subordination, without reference to exploitation, becomes then a purely cultural or ideological matter, the basis of which cannot be made out, unless one has recourse to the notion of some inborn aggressive or sadistic tendencies in men. But exploitation is a historical - and not a biological or psychological - category which lies at the basis of the man-woman relation. It was historically created by patriarchal tribes and societies. Thus, with Mariarosa Della Costa I speak of exploitation of women in the triple sense: they are exploited (not only economically, but as human beings) by men and they are exploited as housewives by capital. If they are wage-workers they are also exploited as wage-workers. But even this exploitation is determined and aggrevated by the other two forms of exploitation."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oppression within oppression: a response to “A Question of Privilege”

This is an excellent article from my friend Hana—well worth a read.

This is a response to an article called “A Question of Privilege” that was posted on the newly formed national libcomaotearoa list, which you can find here. I am disturbed by many of the ideas conveyed in this article, because they clearly represent a trend in anarchist class struggle that disregards an analysis of power as it pertains to relationships within the working class. I have been reluctant to respond to the arguments in “A Question of Privilege”, because it feels like going back-to-basics. Surely most anarchists understand that an analysis of power must have a prominent place in the way we organise toward revolution. Yet hostility to analyses of power that are not purely class-based (i.e. feminist and decolonial theories) appears to be brewing in libertarian class struggle circles, which is really worrying to me. While I do not see class struggle as the only site of resistance, it is certainly essential if we are to create social movements that will really change things. And while I do not want to squeeze all other theories against oppression into a (still narrow) class struggle framework, I do want class struggle movements to be a place where those of us marginalised within the working class (by gender, race and/or whatever else) can shape theory, strategy and practice. For this to happen, conversations about feminism, decolonisation and other struggles against oppression must be in dialogue with class struggle discourse. In this response I focus on how many of the ideas conveyed in “A Question of Privilege” devalue the role of feminist theory in shaping anarchist class struggle. (Note: I use the word ‘power’ interchangeably with ‘privilege’: I like ‘power’ better because it feels less fixed).

“A Question of Privilege” represents the view that an analysis of power has no relevance to class struggle. At its most basic level, an analysis of power requires the understanding that some people have access to more power than others in this society, and that those with more can benefit from the oppression of those with less. Therefore, it is up to those oppressed or exploited and their allies to get organised and overthrow the hierarchy, be it that created by capitalism, patriarchy, colonisation or anything else. To struggle together even when we are affected by divergent oppressions, we need to be able to give up power-over: a ruling class person would have to give up their access to the means of production in order to struggle alongside workers. Not all power-over is as simple as that, but being an ally is about giving up power-over to the extent that it is possible. I cannot give up my white skin, and the fact that this makes me less likely to be arrested for the same crime as other Māori who are brown. Yet being prepared to investigate how this place of relative power and how it informs my viewpoint is fundamental to me being able to stand in solidarity with other Māori in the struggle against colonialism and racism. To me, this analysis of power is fundamental to anarchist praxis.

However, in “A Question of Privilege” Anonymous argues that the ruling class is the only group that can be said to be privileged, claiming that we cannot give up power (such as masculine privilege) when it is tied up with capitalism. I agree that most oppression (i.e. patriarchal oppression) is inextricable with capital, and that approaches to power that do not recognise this are unable to help build a movement against capitalism. However, does that mean that we should not try to understand the historical and present-day struggles of people oppressed by patriarchy? By never indicating that feminism or any other analysis of oppression has a place in informing the way we organise against capital, Anonymous disregards the relevance of these discourses to the struggles of working class people. I disagree vehemently with the notion that an analysis of power has no place in understanding relationships within the working class, indeed, oppression and privilege clearly impact on our capacity to organise together. For me, the willingness to interrogate my position of powerin relation to others, or their power in relation to is an essential part of forming solidarity with folks who are also exploited by class. For that reason and many others, feminism and other discourses that further the interests of those marginalised by any oppressive structure should have an important place in informing class struggle praxis.

For me, the most noticeable thing about “A Question of Privilege” is that it uses language that minimises the impact of patriarchy, white supremacy and other systems of oppression that are not purely about class. For instance, Anonymous asserts that: “‘privileges’ granted by the ruling order to people in certain social categories among the exploited actually amount to nothing more than a lessening of the intensity of exploitation and oppression experienced by these people relative to others”. It is a pity the writers felt the need to belittle the experience of oppression within oppression, for the point that there is commonality across the working class in terms of how we are exploited would have stood perfectly well on its own. Unless of course, Anonymous intends to minimise the experiences of those of us marginalised within the working class, and thereby infer that we should practice class struggle without reference to any other form of oppression. Anonymous also dismisses the critical response to marginalisation, characterising the understanding that some people within the working class have more privilege than others as “useless from an anarchist and revolutionary perspective”. Here, the word ‘useless’ implies a non-negotiable disregard for an analysis of power other than that between ruling and working class. But if there is no place for other analyses of power, then where is the place of feminism, of decolonisation, or any other discourse that furthers the interests of people oppressed in multiple ways?

Because oppression is inextricable from capitalism, Anonymous draws the conclusion that we should not try to ameliorate it, but rather seek to overthrow capital. I agree that freedom from patriarchy cannot be realised so long as there is capitalism, and I have certainly experienced anarchist settings where people act as if it were, even if they theoretically admit that it is not. Here, the struggle against sexism is often figured as the effort to purge it from our lives and ourselves, rather than a constant challenge to power-over and the will to power. However, just because we cannot get rid of sexism without overthrowing capitalism, does that mean that we should not challenge the exercise of power-over? For instance, I think it is appropriate to exclude known violent abusers from anarchist organisations. I also think that it is important to acknowledge that this is only a line in the sand. Many of us go home to families, have friends, or work with people for whom violence is the norm and yet we are not prepared to cut ties. This contradiction is simply a reality of living under patriarchy and trying to struggle against it at the same time. For me, the political imperative to purge sexism has been crazy-making and isolating. Yet an acceptance of sexist behavior would be to comply with the subordination of women or anyone else on the receiving end of it. To me, this conundrum represents a tension that we need to negotiate constantly, rather than an either/or situation.

Anonymous draws attention to the way the ruling class uses oppression within the working class to divide us, but fails to acknowledge the room we do have to limit our use of power. Anonymous contends that privilege is conferred by the ruling class as a means to focus our antagonism on each other rather than them: “[privileges] are intended to convince these people that they have more in common with their exploiters than with those not granted the same “privileges” and to convince the others that their real enemy is not the ruling class, but rather those granted a less intense level of exploitation”. I agree that the Ruling Class does indeed benefit from our dividedness, and that bourgeois ideology encourages the oppressed to identify with the ruling class rather than each other. However, Anonymous neglects the fact that those with relative power can extract material gains at the expense of those with less. Indeed, I strongly disagree with Anonymous’s argument that relative privilege is a “phantom”, i.e. has no material basis, and their inference that letting go of power-over has no place in class struggle. Anonymous contends that the fact women are more likely to experience sexual harassment amounts to an easing of the conditions of exploitation for men. Writing as though sexual harassment were created by the ruling class to divide us, Anonymous fails to acknowledge the agency of the working class men who sexually harass women, and the complicity of those who support them. If sexism is challenged and those challenged refuse to engage, it is they, not the challengers who are ‘dividing the working class’.

If the writers of “A Question of Privilege” are trying to say that certain discourses around privilege do not further class struggle, I can agree with that. Indeed, I feel it is crucial to maintain a critical culture that constantly re-evaluates how we approach oppression. From what I have seen, anarchist praxis that insists on perfect ideological understanding as a prerequisite to collective organisation does not often extend beyond friendship groups. While I lived in Wellington (2004-2007) much of our focus as anarchist-feminists went into dealing with sexism within that anarchist scene. This is no mean feat, and I think an significant growth in consciousness around sexism occurred within that scene through the efforts and persistence of feminists and pro-feminists. However, there was also an collective unwillingness to work with anyone (of whatever gender) who did not already have a certain type of consciousness about oppression, or was not quick to learn. From that unwillingness flowed a praxis that was somewhat severed from the material conditions of our lives. We attended and organised protests, formed the radical wing of reformist campaigns and occasionally ‘fucked shit up’. Yet none of these political strategies required us to go out of our comfort zones and work with others with similar material interests, but did not necessarily share our ideology. This approach to politics culminated in a insular and unfocused anarchist scene that could not help build a diverse movement against capital or patriarchy. However, I do not blame a militant stance on sexist oppression for this, but rather ideological puritanism coupled with the notion that the world can be changed by a small group of committed individuals fucking shit up.

If we are to create theory that addresses the reality of working class women, we need an analysis of power and a dedication to critical exchange. Sexism in all its forms (internalised, implicit, or openly acted out), attacks women’s power and therefore has a direct impact on our ability to organise politically or have a voice in how theory is developed. On an email list where the emphasis is on intellectual exchange, an analysis of power can help ensure that marginalised voices are heard and theory that addresses our concerns can be created. A willingness to dialogue about feminism and class struggle requires first of all an acknowledgement that what feminists have to offer is important. This does not necessitate that anyone secede to whatever feminists think, but rather a dedication to constructive conversation. This works best when we can interrogate our positions of power or bias whilst still valuing our own critical perspective (paradoxical, I know!). Passivity and guilt are common responses to being asked to evaluate ones use of power, yet they are not helpful. Rather than deciding from an informed perspective what sexist practices they will relinquish, guilt ridden men often revert to ‘good little boy’ mode, and sullenly do whatever feminists tell them to do. Yet men giving up responsibility for themselves does not constitute feminist practice. Personally, I would prefer to talk with mature people who can limit their use of power without having to negate themselves.

Whereas the refusal to acknowledge power differences is complicit in the privileging of some peoples interests over another, a willingness to challenge power-over is a call to empower all. The ideas purveyed in “A Question of Privilege” are disturbing because they disregard the importance of feminism and other struggles against power-over by dismissing an analysis of power. Yet an analysis of power is essential to non-hierarchical class struggle because it provides us with understanding and strategies that enable us to stand in solidarity, not in the sense of having entirely eliminated oppression, but rather in a dialectical sense of ongoing confrontation, engagement, and hopefully synthesis. For this to happen, there needs to be a dialogue between feminist and class struggle discourses, and attention paid to the areas where they consciously cross over, from theorists like Mariarosa Dalla Costa, to us everyday people who happen to be passionate about both.
Hana Plant

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Encapsulation: A Digital Preservation Technique

Another MIS paper, this time on a digital preservation technique known as encapsulation.

With the rapid development of both digital software and hardware comes the increasing problem of obsolescence: preserved digital data that will no longer be able to be read by future digital systems (and therefore future users). To resolve this problem a number of digital preservation strategies have been proposed, developed, and implemented—the two main strategies being migration and emulation. As Boudrez notes, “much ink has flown about the advantages and disadvantages of both strategies, but in essence, migration and emulation do not exclude each other” (2005, p.2). Practice has found that, indeed, use of the two strategies complement each other.

However there is a third element that can intertwine with migration and emulation, and is often a core feature of both—encapsulation. Although not a digital preservation strategy on its own, encapsulation works in conjunction with other strategies, and therefore, plays a significant part in digital preservation. This paper will define and describe encapsulation, discuss the context in which encapsulation operates and point to digital curation initiatives that implement it, and identify encapsulation’s advantages and disadvantages.

Encapsulation is a technique that “requires metadata to be bundled with, or embedded into, the digital object. The metadata allows the record to be intellectually understood and technologically accessed in the future” (National Archives of Australia, 2004, p.59). This technique aims to counter obsolete file formats by encapsulating or grouping “details of how to interpret the digital bits in the object” through the use of “physical or logical structures called ‘containers’ or ‘wrappers’ to provide a relationship between all information components, such as the digital object and other supporting information” (National Library of Australia, 2001).

On its own, encapsulation cannot preserve digital records: “encapsulation is not a method that prescribes how digital documents will be reconstructed on the screen in future or how accessibility is preserved” (Boudrez, p.4). What it does is ensure metadata about the object’s original relationships is packaged with it, to aid both preservation strategies such as migration or emulation, and future user interpretations (provenance, context etc.). Such metadata is important because “the various components of an electronic record do not form a physical entity, but are stored at separate locations (in a database, a file system or a combination of both) and as different digital objects” (Boudrez, p.4). Encapsulation is one way to track such relationships, convey important information—in the form of Archive Information Packages (AIP) in Open Archival Information System (OAIS) terminology (Lavoie, 2004)—and retain authenticity.

Digital signatures, or pointers to outside storage areas of information, are examples of how information is embedded or ‘bundled’ into the digital object via a ‘wrapper’. Analog instructions that are physically connected to the storage medium are also common. Yet there is no universal encapsulation methodology in use, meaning various repositories have developed their own approaches depending on need and ingest strategies. The jury is also out on what electronic metadata standards should inform the encapsulation process.

There have been attempts to resolve this, namely projects like the Universal Preservation Format (UPF) and the Digital Rosetta Stone (DRS). Encapsulation in practice provides further examples, highlighted by its implementation at the National Archives of Australia, the Public Records Office of Victoria, and the City Archives of Antwerp. A commonality of these examples is the use of OAIS standards to inform what kind of information needs to be embedded, and the use of eXtensible Markup Language (XML) schemas to create the required metadata.

Encapsulation in theory 
In the late 1990s a number of encapsulation models were formulated. The Universal Preservation Format (UPF), was developed in 1997 as a “data file mechanism that utilizes a container or wrapper structure. Its framework incorporates metadata that identifies its contents within a registry of standard data types and serves as the source code for mapping or translating binary composition into accessible or useable forms” (Shepard & MacCarn, year, p.2). Designed to be “independent of the computer applications used to create content, and independent of the operating system from which these applications originated and independent of the physical media upon which that content is stored”, the UPF model was an early recommended practice, arguing that “the Wrapper would be capable of describing and defining the content and its structure” (Shepard & MacCarn, p.2).

Another model put forward was the Digital Rosetta Stone (DRS) project, which took inspiration from the Egyptian Rosetta Stone—a tablet that enabled ancient hieroglyphics to be interpreted in modern times. DRS describes “three processes that are necessary for maintaining long-term access to digital documents in their native formats—knowledge preservation, data recovery, and document reconstruction” (Heminger & Robertson, 1998, p.1). This includes capturing metadata and other information to ensure that “we don’t lose our ability to read our own history” (Heminger & Robertson, p.9).

Encapsulation in practice 
The National Archives of Australia is one institution that uses encapsulation in conjunction with migration and emulation strategies. This process is described in Digital Recordkeeping: Guidelines For Creating, Managing and Preserving Digital Records (2004). Upon receiving data from the producer,

digital records are converted or ‘normalised’ using archival data formats. The archival data formats use XML standard schemas. XML provides a standard syntax to identify parts of a document (known as elements), and a standard way (known as a schema) to describe the rules for how those elements can be linked together in a document. Metadata is encapsulated within the preserved data object, and the whole package is stored in a digital repository. A special viewing tool makes the packages accessible using a form of emulation (p. 63).

Forms of migration, encapsulation via XML schemas, and emulation combine to ensure that digital records are preserved, meet accountability and legislative requirements, and the needs of the community (p. 14).

An early practitioner of encapsulation was the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV), whose Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS) developed the VERS Long Term Format. This “consists of an object (known as a VERS Encapsulated Object or VEO)” represented in XML and “signed using digital signature technology to ensure authenticity” (PROV, 2000). The XML encoding enables the contents to be inspected in the future by simple text editing software. Encapsulated metadata following the Recordkeeping Metadata Standard for Commonwealth Agencies Version 2.0 and specified in the VERS Metadata Scheme:

  • structures the information contained within the VEO.
  • documents the standards and specifications used in producing the VEO.
  • contains a digital signature and sufficient information to verify the signature.
  • describes the record or folder and its relationship with other records or folders in the recordkeeping system.
  • contains information used to document the history of the record or folder.
  • supports the management of the record or folder (PROV, 2003).

Similarly, the City Archives of Antwerp uses metadata and XML to encapsulate digital objects—drawing on OAIS frameworks that captures AIP’s and encapsulates all information into one container. This is carried out before ingest by the creator and/or archivist, and involves:

  • migration of the original formats to suitable archiving formats 
  • encapsulation of the original and migrated bitstreams in XML 
  • registration and encapsulation of the essential technical and archival descriptive metadata 
  • generation of a checksum to check the bit integrity 
  • checking the quality of the XML-AIP's (Boudrez, p.13).

Encapsulation: advantages and disadvantages 
Besides the obvious advantage of preventing obsolescence, encapsulation ensures content and contextual information is stored together, minimising the risk of losing valuable information. Metadata stored in the object itself (instead of an external location), that can be easily transferred and migrated with the object means information integrity, provenance, and authenticity are more likely to be preserved. It also means the digital objects are “self-descriptive and autonomous: they identify and document themselves” (Boudrez, p.5). Encapsulation can also aid emulation (as the software needed to be emulated becomes more complex over time), and makes migration of digital objects easier.

The disadvantage of encapsulation is that it relies heavily on standards to maintain readability, which as Dave Bearman points out, “naively imagines standards lasting forever. No computer technical standards have yet shown any likelihood of lasting forever—indeed most have become completely obsolete within a couple of software generations” (1999). It is also not great for binary file formats because “there is usually too little space and an expansion of the fields could cause interchangeability and readability problems. The addition of metadata to binary files also requires a separate module or software tool for each format, because usually such a functionality is not supported by current computer programs” (Boudrez, p.5). In the case of VERS, this means the producer is restricted to providing specified formats—Text, PDF-A, PDF, TIFF, JPEG, JPEG-2000, and MPEG-4 (PROV, 2003)—adding another possible barrier to digital preservation. The VERS model was investigated and finally dismissed as a possible strategy for Archives New Zealand.

Encapsulation is a common—but not universal—digital preservation technique that, although not a strategy on its own, informs and complements other preservation projects. Metadata plays an important role: indeed, encapsulation relies on various degrees of embedded metadata in order to be successful. This has the advantage of bringing all the relevant information about the digital object with it into the future, but because standards are not always ‘set in stone’, this very reliance on standards could also be to its long-term detriment. Nonetheless, the core element of encapsulation—preserving important contextual and functional information for future use—is an important one that should inform all other digital preservation strategies.

Bearman, D. (1999). Reality and Chimeras in the Preservation of Electronic Records. Accessed 22 November 2011 from

Boudrez, Filip. (2005). Digital containers for shipment into the future. Accessed 23 November from

Heminger, A.R., and S.B. Robertson. (1998). Digital Rosetta Stone: A Conceptual Model for Maintaining Long-term Access to Digital Documents. Accessed 22 November 2011 from proceedings/DELOS6/rosetta.pdf

Lavoie, B. F. (2004). The Open Archival Information System Reference Model: Introductory Guide. Accessed 20 November 2011 from

National Archives of Australia. (2004). Digital Recordkeeping: Guidelines For Creating, Managing and Preserving Digital Record. Accessed 23 November 2011 from

National Library of Australia. (2001). Encapsulation. Accessed 22 November 2011 from

Public Records Office of Victoria. (2000). Standard for the Management of Electronic Records PROS 99/007 (Version 1). Accessed 21 November 2011 from

Public Records Office of Victoria. (2003). Management of Electronic Records PROS 99/007 (Version 2). Accessed 23 November 2011 from

Shepard, T., and MacCarn, D. (1997). The Universal Preservation Format A Recommended Practice for Archiving Media and Electronic Records. Accessed 23 November 2011 from

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tapuhi and Archway: A Review of Two Online Finding Aids

My paper for INFO534 (Masters of Information Studies) on two New Zealand Finding Aids.

The purpose of archival description is to identify and explain the context and content of archival material in order to promote its accessibility (International Council on Archives, 2000, p.7). Repositories do this through online finding aids: tools that guide the user by establishing intellectual and physical control of the collection. They attempt to illustrate core archival principles such as provenance (keeping records from the same source together and separate from records from different sources), and original order (keeping or describing records in the order they were last used) to enable an understanding of an item’s context—why and how the records were created.

Finding aids vary in structure and functionality depending on:
  • Visual design
  • Arrangement and description, or system architecture (classic hierarchy or series systems)
  • Metadata (standards, data content, and data values)

Using ‘censorship’ as a keyword search, this report considers the usability of two online findings aids—Tapuhi (Alexander Turnbull Library) and Archway (Archives New Zealand)—highlighting their visual design, system architecture, and use of metadata. It will also make recommendations for the improvement of usability.

Tapuhi is the online finding aid of unpublished collections at the Alexander Turnbull Library (part of the National Library of New Zealand), whose role is “to collect, preserve and make accessible words, pictures and sounds that tell us about the history and cultures of the people of New Zealand and the Pacific” (ALT, 2011). Tapuhi covers manuscripts and archives, cartoons, posters, ephemera, and photography. However it will soon be replaced by ‘Beta’—a finding aid that combines all of the National Library’s materials into one database.

Tapuhi is far from flattering visually, with next-to-no aesthetic design, boring typography and stark white background. But its lack of flair is balanced by the ease of navigation and ‘findability’ such simplicity provides. A basic homepage with the option of searching particular collections successfully invites use, and there are many hyperlinks that explain the process. Within the finding aid hyperlinks are clearly differentiated and metadata is simple to view, eliminating the possibility of confusion or becoming ‘lost’ in the fonds. This simplicity fits the library’s role, ensuring almost anyone could use the finding aid without being visually offended.

There are a number of search methods within the user’s chosen collection, providing a variety of entry points (broad search, record title, date, name, iwi, for example). However these entry points are fairly hierarchical compared to a series system and consists of a classically structured database which models the types of relationships found in inventories, all focused on keyword searching. Rather than making archival principles of arrangement and description explicit, the system operates on a Google-like subject search methodology (arguably assuming that users prefer such systems or do not have knowledge of archival principles).

A broad search using the keyword ‘censorship’ resulted in many hits at the group and item level. Once a record is selected, the results can be explored through hyperlinks that lead to the series it belongs to, and further records by the creator (including the entire fonds). In this way the user can navigate quite easily, and get a feel for evidential relationships, provenance, and original order through Tapuhi’s extensive provision of metadata.

Initial results use minimal metadata, showing title, date range, reference number and issue status. But once selected there is a good deal of metadata at the fond, series, and item level. Data content and values at the fonds level is comprehensive and includes:

  • Title and date range
  • Reference number
  • Use information (restrictions, collection and issue status)
  • Physical description, linear metres and quantity (folders and volumes)
  • Context (arrangement and acquisition information, provenance, record types, general notes)
  • Series and child records
  • Subject keywords

Much of the data content is hyperlinked—enabling navigation to other records at various levels—and is quite specific, making metadata easy to interpret. At the item level 11 fields use similar as the fonds level values, less the subject keywords and full series links. However, there is no indication of what standard is used—something a number of libraries now make explicit (Wikipedia, 2011)—and it is unknown whether the metadata is reliable.

Tapuhi is simple and easy to navigate, but at the expense of multi-directional searching. Its hierarchical and linear system suits a user with basic archival knowledge, items can be located easily, and its metadata gives enough detail to get a sense of arrangement and description. However access to the archive itself is non-existent: there are no links showing how to access or order the found record.

Thankfully, ‘Beta’ is better—it is well designed visually and has a ‘send an enquiry’ link on each page, allowing greater access to the actual archive. Side columns list various entry points and types of metadata, and a quick search suggests it is an improvement on Tapuhi.


Archway, the finding aid of Archives New Zealand, is different to Tapuhi in many ways. As New Zealand’s national archive, “many different people and organisations, including family historians, academics, legal researchers, professional historians and genealogists use the materials held at Archives New Zealand” (Archives New Zealand, 2011). Archway takes this diversity of users into account through a number of methods.

The visual aesthetic of Archway is subdued but thoughtful, simple enough to encourage use but not as stark as Tapuhi. Colour schemes play an important role to signify hyperlinks or retrievable information (gold), access (green, orange or red), and customised options (green). Because Archway can be used in a variety of ways, this design helps ground the user’s experience in what could be a very confusing process. A graph of the various levels of description and at what level the user is on is provided on every page. Key informational links such as ‘Searching In Archway’ are clearly labelled and easy to find.

3.2. SYSTEM 
ArchitectureArchway, too, begins with a keyword search. But the options for different entries to records are many, with advanced searches allowing the user to make use of Archway’s series system approach. There are seven levels (or types of descriptions) in Archway that enable full use of the archival principles of provenance and original order. A user can search at the records, series, organisational, functional, or agency level (and more), gaining important contextual information through its architecture and the administrative histories it provides. This process is very well described in the help sections, ensuring users of any level can make use of the finding aid.

How results are viewed can also be customised—as well as deciding on what level to enter, the user can order their results by date range, record title, department, access and location. Once customised, clicking a particular record on censorship then shows two tabs: ‘record information’ gives information on description, accession, and controlling agency—each hyperlinked to further information—and ‘ordering information’ gives reference numbers, access information and the option of ordering the record then and there.

Archway uses metadata in different ways to Tapuhi. While title, date range, reference numbers, record type, accession and agency are provided on most records, they are not listed in a simple format. Apart from the title and date range, there is no metadata around the subject or content of a particular record. Instead, metadata content leads to more content through hyperlinks, especially at the series level, where broader context such as administrative histories and provenance is provided. In this way the metadata is more complex than Tapuhi and could effect ‘findability’, but the time needed to locate information drives home archival principles of arrangement and description—providing a wealth of contextual knowledge only implied in Tapuhi.

The data in Archway also serves another function—continued archival practice based on the continuum model. To do this Archway implements the Australian Series System and its related standards of metadata. This information, and information on the reliability of the content, is readily accessible to the user; for example, Archway points out that “the quality and completeness of this information does vary, and work is underway to bring it up to a consistent standard” (Archway, 2008).

Archway is a complex and complete finding aid well suited to that of a National Archive. It balances the needs of a novice user with the competent researcher, and aids current archival practice for its host organization. Its series system fits archival arrangement and description, offering various points of entry and contextual information for the user.

Archway could be improved through the use of video and Web 2.0 technology. Video is a growing Internet tool with many organizations benefiting from its inclusion into their websites. It would allow the user to get a handle on Archway’s series approach and core archival principles, and provide richer search results. Web 2.0 would also allow users to see the comments and research trails of past users, and the use of tags could increase metadata and aid searching by subject.

The finding aids of two New Zealand repositories illustrate how differences in visual design, system architecture, and the use of metadata, produce a different experience for the user. While Tapuhi is simple and easy to use, it is restricted to classical arrangement and description and, despite ‘findability’, it is still hard to access the physical record. Archway, on the other hand, uses a series system that, despite the possibility of creating confusion, allows a wide range of users to partake in broad and context-rich searches. It is aware of its arrangement and description systems and the use of metadata standards, and suits the scope of a National archive. However both could still be improved, to the benefit of all users.

International Council on Archives. (2000). ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description, Second Edition, Ottawa.

Alexander Turnbull Library. (2011). About Us. Accessed 25 October 2011 from


Metadata. (2011, September 20). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 25 October 2011 from

Archives New Zealand. (2011). About Us. Accessed 28 October 2011 from

Archway. (2008). About Archway. Accessed 28 October from

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Anarchism and Anarchy- Barry Pateman at the 2009 NAASN Conference

"Anarchism and Anarchy: A Historical Perspective" is an excellent opening Talk at the 2009 North American Anarchist Studies Network Conference by Barry Pateman, anarchist historian and writer. As well as anarchist historiography, Barry touches on organisational issues and his experiences of the 1984/5 Miners' Strike.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Early anarchism in New Zealand: an introduction

The following is an early draft of the introduction to my paper on Philip Josephs and early anarchism in New Zealand. It's likely to change over time, but I post it to a) reassure the IAS that I'm on track, b) because others may be interested, and c) to get some feedback.

Philip Josephs—a Latvian-born Jew, recent arrival to New Zealand by way of Scotland, and self-proclaimed anarchist—took to the floor of the Wellington 1906 May Day demonstration amidst orchestral outbursts and a flurry of motions. ‘This meeting,’ moved Josephs, ‘sends its fraternal greetings to our comrades engaged in the universal class war, and pledges itself to work for the abolition of the capitalistic system and the substitution in New Zealand of a co-operative commonwealth, founded on the collective ownership of the land and the means of production and distribution.’1 The motion, as well as highlighting his involvement in the radical milieu of New Zealand’s capital, conveys the key concepts of his anarchism—internationalism, mass collective action, and socialism.

However if one were to form an understanding of anarchism based on the newspapers of the day, or from the accounts of New Zealand’s labour movement by certain historians, a very different conclusion would be drawn. On the rare occasions it is mentioned, anarchism is used hysterically by the press to denounce or decry; by labour leaders in order to show the fallacy of their opponent’s positions; and by Labourist historians to symbolise wayward ideas or acts of extremism—painting a nightmarish picture of anarchist practice in the vein of Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday.2 ‘Gods Own Country is not safe from the vagaries of the person who believes in the bomb as opposed to argument,’ bellowed the Marlborough Express in 1907. 

Although highly exaggerated, the Express article contained one truth. God’s Own Country—the ‘workingman’s paradise’ that was New Zealand in the early years of the twentieth century—had anarchists in its midst. To describe this small number as a coherently organised movement would be another exaggeration, but nonetheless, those that subscribed to anarchism in New Zealand were a valid part of the labour movement, imparting uncredited ideas and influence. Unfortunately these radicals have fared badly in labour historiography—even more so than their communist counterparts who, at least, are mentioned, even if they are ‘frequently dealt with by a very brief, generally dismissive, characterisation, often little more than a caricature.’3 New Zealand anarchists and their commitment to social change deserves more than the relative silence that currently represents their struggle. 

Indeed, the only work on anarchism in New Zealand during the turbulent teens is the indispensable 32-page pamphlet ‘Troublemakers’ Anarchism and Syndicalism: The Early Years of the Libertarian Movement in Aotearoa/New Zealand, by Frank Prebble. Drawing on snippets of primary and mainly secondary sources, his research was pioneering in that it was the first specific work on anarchism—highlighting a definite strand of libertarian praxis in New Zealand that has been overlooked. Yet as Prebble notes in the introduction, ‘this pamphlet is not complete, much of the information is very fragmentary and a lot more work needs to be done.’4 

Apart from the small number of its adherents, one of the reasons that early anarchism in New Zealand has been understudied and why further research is difficult, is due to the lack of historical records: 

a great deal of material has simply been lost due to the transitory characteristics of events. Those who were active in personal discussions and other forms of activism in their dynamic, often convulsing, and ever changing world often did not see the need or lacked the literacy to be able to document their ideas… what is left as source material are the thoughts only of those who were literate, who spoke loudly enough to be documented by others, or who wished to make themselves heard in a more durable way.5

Another factor that has limited past anarchist historiography is the tendency to view its subject/s solely within national boundaries. Anarchism was a transnational movement—built upon global economic integration and both formal and informal networks crossing national lines.6 When framed within geographical limits anarchism in New Zealand certainly appears submerged in a sea of ‘pink’ socialism, even insignificant. Yet a transnational lens allows New Zealand anarchists to be viewed as part of a wider, international movement, spurred on by transoceanic migration, doctrinal diffusion, financial flows, transmission of information and symbolic practices, and acts of solidarity.7 The role of New Zealand anarchism, both in the New Zealand labour movement and its own international movement, increases in scope when placed in such a context. 

With that in mind, and by drawing on work by Constance Bantman and others,8 this contribution will explore early anarchism in New Zealand through a biography of one of its key players. The transnational nature of anarchism in the period between its emergence in the workers movement of the late 1860’s, and the interwar years, can be seen in the migration and activity of Philip Josephs (1876-1946). His sustained activism, whether from the soapbox or through the mailbox, and his involvement in the class struggle that swept through New Zealand prior to the First World War, makes Josephs one of New Zealand’s most important and pioneering anarchists. 

As well as providing previously scarce biographical information on Josephs, I hope to convince the reader of three main claims. Firstly, before the arrival of Josephs in New Zealand the ‘broad anarchist tradition’—defined by Schmidt and van der Walt as a revolutionary form of libertarian socialism against social and economic hierarchy (specifically capitalism and the state), in favour of international class struggle and revolution from below in order to create a self-managed, socialist, and stateless social order9—had next to no organised presence. There were anarchists and anarchist ideas in New Zealand before Josephs, but it was his activity within the New Zealand Socialist Party and later through his formation of New Zealand’s first anarchist collective, The Freedom Group, that ensured a level of organised anarchism previously absent from the wider labour movement. 

The second point is one of legitimacy: anarchism was a valid part of the New Zealand Labour movement—directly through the activity of Philip Josephs, or indirectly due to anarchist ideas. Although often missing from the indexes of New Zealand labour histories, anarchism was ‘more influential than most have realised.’10 The anarchist communism of Josephs reflects the rejection of violent individualism (propaganda by the deed) and the move back to the labour movement taken by the majority of anarchists in the late 1880’s. His support of syndicalist class struggle and the general strike, and his activity alongside the local branches of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) typifies the relationship of anarchism with revolutionary syndicalism. Indeed, if one went so far as employing Schmidt and van der Walt’s definition of syndicalism being a variant and strategy of the broad anarchist tradition, the era of the New Zealand Federation of Labor (the ‘Red Feds’) of 1908-1913 can be seen in a whole new light.11 

Finally, the New Zealand anarchist movement, and Josephs in particular, was rooted within the international anarchist movement. Josephs’ birth in Latvia, his radicalisation in Glasgow, Scotland, and his almost two decades in New Zealand before leaving for Australia highlights the transient nature of labour; while his distribution of international anarchist literature, and personal networking with overseas revolutionaries and groups such as Freedom (UK) and the Mother Earth Publishing Association (USA), illustrates the doctrinal diffusion and sharing of information so vital to informal, intercontinental anarchist networks. This sharing went both ways: Josephs’ activities, the bankruptcy of state-socialist legislation, and accounts of the 1912 Waihi Strike in New Zealand popped up on the pages of various anarchist journals abroad, lending weight to the notion that: 

anarchism was not a Western European doctrine that diffused outwards, perfectly formed, to a passive ‘periphery.’ Rather, the movement emerged simultaneously and transnationally, created by interlinked activists on many continents—a pattern of interconnection, exchange and sharing, rooted in ‘informal internationalism.’'12

Josephs personifies the interlinked activist, operating within a small local scene but with an eye towards international events and developments. As a result, anarchism took hold in New Zealand—the Freedom Group of 1913 being the first of many anarchist collectives to play a vibrant part in the history of the New Zealand left.

1 Evening Post, 7 May 1906.
2 G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday, J.W. Arrowsmith Publishing: London, 1908.
3 Kerry Taylor, ‘Workers Vanguard of People’s Voice?: the Communist Party of New Zealand from Origins to 1946’, Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 1994, p. ?.
4 Frank Prebble, “Troublemakers” Anarchism and Syndicalism: The Early Years of the Libertarian Movement in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Libertarian Press, 1995.
5 Rob Knowles, Political Economy From Below: Economic Thought in Communitarian Anarchism, 1840-1914, Routledge, 2004, p. ?.
6 Steven Hirsch & Lucien van der Walt, ‘Rethinking Anarchism, Syndicalism, the Colonial and Postcolonial experience’ in Hirsch & van der Walt (eds.), Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1870-1940: The Praxis of National Liberation, Internationalism, and Social Revolution, Brill, 2011.
7 Ibid., p. Ii.
8 Constance Bantman, ‘The Militant Go-between: Emile Pouget’s Transnational Propaganda (1880-1914)’ in Labour History Review, 74(3), 2009, p. 274-287; David Berry & Constance Bantman (eds.), New Perspectives on Anarchism, Labour and Syndicalism: The Individual, the National and the Transnational, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010; Marcel van der Linden, Transnational Labour History: Explorations, Ashgate, 2003.
9 Michael Schmidt & Lucien van der Walt, Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, AK Press, 2009, p. 71. ‘Red Feds’ explanation if not mentioned later in the text.
10 Eric Olssen, email to the author, 20 August 2010.
11 Schmidt & van der Walt, Black Flame.
12 Hirsch & van der Walt, ‘Rethinking Anarchism’, p. Iiv.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Communisation: in print

communizersCan we find alternatives to the failed radical projects of the twentieth century? What are the possible forms of struggle today? How do we fight back against the misery of our crisis-ridden present?
These are some of the questions posed in a number of recent publications on the ‘buzzword’ that is communisation, illustrating a rich history of thought that has its roots in the decomposition of proletariat ‘identity’ and the crisis of 1970′s capitalism. Bringing together voices from inside and outside of these currents Communization and Its Discontents treats Communization as a problem to be explored rather than a solution. Taking in the new theorisations of Communization proposed by Tiqqun and The Invisible Committee, Theorie Communiste, post-autonomists, and others, it offers critical reflections on the possibilities and the limits of these contemporary forms, strategies, and tactics of struggle.
Featured in the book is the work of Endnotes, a journal also worth exploring. The introduction to Endnotes #1, Bring Out Your Dead, nicely summarises a key debate between two major players in the development of communisation theory, and also provides a concise definition:
…groups like Mouvement Communiste, Négation, and La Guerre Sociale advocated a conception of revolution as the immediate destruction of capitalist relations of production, or “communisation”. As we shall see, the understanding of communisation differed between different groups, but it essentially meant the application of communist measures within the revolution — as the condition of its survival and its principle weapon against capital. Any “period of transition” was seen as inherently counter-revolutionary, not just in so far as it entailed an alternative power structure which would resist “withering away” (c.f. anarchist critiques of “the dictatorship of the proletariat”), nor simply because it always seemed to leave unchallenged fundamental aspects of the relations of production, but because the very basis of workers’ power on which such a transition was to be erected was now seen to be fundamentally alien to the struggles themselves. Workers’ power was just the other side of the power of capital, the power of reproducing workers as workers; henceforth the only available revolutionary perspective would be the abolition of this reciprocal relation.
Another recent addition to the literature is Sic, an international journal on communisation from Endnotes, Blaumachen, Théorie Communiste, Riff-Raff and more:
In the course of the revolutionary struggle, the abolition of the division of labour, of the State, of exchange, of any kind of property ; the extension of a situation in which everything is freely available as the unification of human activity, that is to say the abolition of classes, of both public and private spheres – these are all “measures” for the abolition of capital, imposed by the very needs of the struggle against the capitalist class. The revolution is communisation ; communism is not its project or result.
One does not abolish capital for communism but by communism…
This is only a brief summary as there are a number of other sources always arising on the topic, but there is much anarchists and other radicals can learn from some of the debates and theory listed above.

Monday, November 21, 2011

the miners' militant history

My text for the November issue of The Spark (and the LHP Newsletter).

From the arrival of colliers in the 1870s to New Zealand’s biggest strikes, miners have played an active part in the struggle against capitalism. As Len Richardson points out: ‘Coalminers occupy a special place in the history of industrial radicalism in New Zealand’. Socialists of many shades considered them ‘a revolutionary vanguard destined to bring capitalism to its knees’—to employers they were troublemakers holding back the progress of modern development. Regardless of how they are painted, there is no doubting the importance of miners in New Zealand’s labour history.

Miners were some of New Zealand first migrants, transplanted from the English coalfields to the ‘New World’ in the late 1870s. Unfortunately for the colonial coal masters, these miners brought with them the ‘twin evils’ of Methodism and unionism, and in 1884 formed the first miners’ union in Denniston. They quickly went about organising their own Federations to accommodate the diverse situations of the coalfields—the Amalgamated Miners’ and Labourers’ Association in the 1880s and the more successful Miners’ Federation of 1908. Meanwhile, during the Maritime Strike of 1890 miners took strike action in support of the general seamen’s strike.

The latter Federation was the result of a dramatic strike in the town of Blackball —traditional home of New Zealand radicalism. Growing militancy was stoked by the arrival of radicals like Patrick Hickey and the propaganda of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Their advocacy of direct action and revolutionary industrial unionism related to the miners’ disenchantment with the labour laws of the day, such as the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration (ICA) Act, which disallowed unions from striking. In 1908 the formation of a New Zealand Socialist Party branch signalled the rise of revolutionary ideas in the valley.

From 1907, ‘Blackball miners and their employers had been on a collision course’ over conditions, Richardson says, so when seven miners were fired for taking 30 minutes ‘crib-time’ instead of the 15 imposed by the company it was the final straw. All 120 Blackball miners ceased work on 27 February 1908. This was a deliberate challenge to the ICA Act and the Arbitration Court tried to intervene, but community solidarity was too strong.

After three months the company gave in, sending waves of enthusiasm for direct action throughout the country. The resulting Miners Federation grew into the ‘Red’ Federation of Labour, whose preamble stated ‘the working class and the employing class having nothing in common’. This ‘baptism of fire’ did not end in Blackball however, for the Red Feds soon found themselves involved in two of New Zealand’s most violent labour struggles: the Waihi Strike of 1912 and the Great Strike of 1913.

The Red Feds encouraged class struggle free of ‘labour’s leg iron’: the ICA Act. Affiliated unions, including the miners of the Waihi Trade Union of Workers, began to de-register from the ICA. So in 1912 when 30 engine drivers in Waihi re-registered under the ICA (reportedly encouraged by the bosses), the union struck in protest. On 13 May, Waihi came to a standstill. However the strike failed. Intense police repression and violence saw the balance of power shift to the bosses. During what became known as the ‘Black Week’, the Miners’ Hall was stormed, striker Fred Evans was killed by a police baton to the head (becoming the first worker do die in an industrial dispute in New Zealand), and unionists and their families were driven out of town as police stood by.

On the heels of the Waihi Strike came the Great Strike of 1913, in which miners played an important part. In October, Huntly miners called a strike when the company dismissed two union executive members, while in Wellington the watersiders struck when the Union Steam Ship Company refused to pay travelling time for shipwrights. Strike action soon spread. Miners on the West Coast took wildcat strike action without waiting for official sanction, and shut down the ports of Westport and Greymouth. Fearful of the miners’ militancy, explosives were shifted from the Runanga state mine to a private munitions magazine in Greymouth.

The Great Strike involved some 16,000 workers and resulted in a general strike in Auckland. Massive demonstrations and union control of the waterfront was eventually broken with ‘Massey’s Cossacks’—farmers enrolled as special police—and the hand of the state. Before long naval ships in the port of Wellington had their guns trained on the city, machine guns lined the streets, and soldiers with naked bayonets protected ‘free’ labour to re-open the docks. By December, strike leaders were arrested for sedition, the strike collapsed, and the coalition of government and employers gained a complete victory. Miners, true to their fighting spirit, were some of the last to return to work.

After the Great Strike, miners battled employers over conditions and the contracts system, until the outbreak of the First World War threw up new a new issue: conscription. When the government introduced a national register of men of military age, West Coast miners threatened industrial action to halt what was perceived to be the first-step towards compulsory conscription. A ‘go slow’ was put in place in late 1916. The government promptly assured miners that if called up their appeals would be favourably heard, but nonetheless miners were refused exemption until coal production was back to normal rates. In April 1917, miners on the West Coast struck, demanding that all military conscription cease. A compromise was made—legal action against the strikers and the refused exemptions were dropped in exchange for a promise of no strike action for the duration of the war. Although radical anti-conscriptionists on the Grey Valley were unsatisfied, the miners accepted the government’s terms.

Throughout the 20th century, miners were also heavily involved in  revolutionary political groups. As well as the aforementioned New Zealand Socialist Party and the IWW, miners were members of New Zealand’s first Communist Parties. West Coast Marxists were involved in the New Zealand Marxian Association (1918), the Communist Party of New Zealand (1921), and the West Coast Communist Federation (1922). In 1925, Blackball became the  headquarters of the Communist Party, whose secretary in 1927 was also the secretary of the United Mine Workers, a federation of miners formed in 1923.

From the 1919 Alliance of Labour and the unemployed workers’ unions of the Depression years to the 1951 Lockout, miners featured in the many struggles of labour against capital. However the defeat of 1951 signalled what Richardson describes as the ‘slow and lingering death of mining unionism and the communities that sustained it’. Mining no longer played the crucial role it had during its development, technologies changed, and communities fragmented. Yet miners’ struggles continued, and will continue as long as mining  and capitalism exist. As recently as 2009-2010, miners at Stockton, Spring  Creek, Rotowaro and Huntly East took industrial action against Solid Energy, showing that the struggles of miners in New Zealand are far from history.

Len Richardson, Coal, Class and Community: The United Mineworkers of New Zealand 1880-1960, Auckland University Press, 1995; Bert Roth & Janny Hammond, Toil and Trouble: The Struggle for a Better Life in New Zealand, Methuen, 1981.

Reproduced courtesy of The Spark.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

occupied wall street poster journal

A handful of crew in NYC (including Justseeds and Occuprint) have been hard at work on an all poster edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal, the paper that was produced by those occupying Wall Street. I was lucky enough to be approached by Josh MacPhee and get my poster, Never in History, into the mix.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the picture of the Occupy Wall Street Library, with my poster, smack bang in the middle.

I'm stoked people are seeing it (around 20,000 copies were printed) and that of all places, it made it onto the canvas walls of the people's library. I should note that I would never have made the poster if it wasn't for the good folk at Kotare Trust commissioning me to do so.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

IAS Grant: Philip Josephs and early anarchism in New Zealand

The Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS) is an American-based organisation designed to foster the development of anarchism, primarily through grants but also through their journal, Perspectives. From their website:
Since the inception of the Institute for Anarchist Studies in 1996, the grant program has been a central project. By awarding grants to radical writers and translators around the world -- many of whom work without the support of academic institutions, and are connected in important ways to the movements about which and for which they write -- the IAS has tried to support the development of the theoretical tools necessary for critiquing the systems of domination in which we are enmeshed as well as proliferating resistances and alternatives to these systems in order to maximize freedom, justice, and dignity.
A few months ago I thought I would have a crack at submitting an application for the latest round of funding. I'm currently researching Philip Josephs (founder of New Zealand's first anarchist collective) and early anarchism in New Zealand, so I knew a grant of any kind would really help with travel/research costs.

I thought I may have a slim chance, as Mark Derby is the only other New Zealander to win a grant so far. But when I received an email saying that I had won a grant for $750 USD from the IAS towards this project I was pretty damn surprised! This much-needed financial boost will help me employ a researcher at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, where the complete archive of the UK Freedom Group is held. It will also get me to the National Archives in Wellington, a trip that I usually can't justify due to the costs involved. In return the IAS gets an article on anarchism in New Zealand for their journal, as does New Zealand labour historiography.

Thanks to the IAS for this amazing award, and to everyone who has helped me along the way—both with my Joe Hill research and my current project. Hopefully I can do Philip and the anarchist movement justice.

I'll be posting updates and bits from my research from time to time on my blog if anyone is interested:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Subtle subversions: Polish film posters


Justseeds bloggers recently pointed out this great website of Polish film posters from the 1940's onwards. As well as being visually striking, a number of these posters contain subtle political overtones—film posters escaping the eyes of the Soviet censors. It was a format that allowed Polish designers to critique Soviet rule in a mainstream context.

An excellent book on this process is Western Amerykanski: Polish Poster Art and the Western, which looks at how the Western genre enabled poster artists to comment on Russian Imperialism and other taboo subjects.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Celebrate Resistance: Katipo Books November Update

“This type of historical awareness is a key reminder that we still live in a society deeply divided by class. The actions of the past stand as inspiring, yet unfinished movements to continue to build upon and to adapt to present conditions.” (Nicholas Lampert, Realising the Impossible).
With occupations and general strikes taking place around the world, what better time to read up on some ideas to help further the struggle. We can learn from those who have walked similar paths before us—their methods and tactics, successes and failures. And we can be inspired to push our actions further.

Here's a few titles that we hope may be relevant:

Lucy Parsons: Freedom, Equality & Solidarity – Writings & Speeches, 1878-1937
For anarchist Lucy Parsons, a general strike and an occupation are synonyms.
Her amazing speech can be read here. Other elements of her talks resonate greatly with the present moment. Parsons discusses her experiences with the police and state murder of her husband, sadly relevant to recent police violence. Parsons talks about how U.S. residents drew inspiration from struggles around the world, another parallel to the present where protests around the world look to each other for ideas and motivation. Parsons also discusses gender divisions within movements of her day, issues which we still need to address today.
Read more here.

Rabble Rousers & Merry Pranksters: A History of Anarchism in Aotearoa/New Zealand from the Mid-1950s to the Early 1980s
Rabble Rousers and Merry Pranksters captures some of the imagination, the audacity, the laughs and the wildness that animated many of the social movements of the sixties and seventies in Aoteaora/New Zealand. During this time, particularly from the late sixties to the early seventies, an astonishingly broad-based revolt occurred throughout the country. Thousands of workers, Maori, Pacific people, women, youth, lesbians, gays, students, environmentalists and others rebelled against authority. Innovative new styles and anarchistic methods of political dissent became popular.
Read more here.

We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-Capitalism
7″ 5″, b&w photo-studded tour of the global justice movement’s many locales and leaderless actors, from a mostly London-based editorial collective that includes an editor of New Internationalist magazine. The book is divided into seven primer-like chapters-”Emergence,” “Networks,” “Autonomy,” “Carnival,” “Clandestinity,” “Power” and “Walking”-each with a headline-like subtitle (e.g., “Power: building it without taking it”). The book as a whole makes a case for “direct action,” or organized resistance to specific policies or decisions
Read more here

Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America (2nd edition)
Pacifism as Pathology was written as a response not only to Churchill’s frustration with his own activist experience, but also to a debate raging in the activist and academic communities. He argues that pacifism is in many ways counterrevolutionary; that it defends the status quo, rather than leading to social change. In these times of upheaval and global protest, this is a vital and extremely relevant book.
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Gathering Rage: The Failure Of 20th Century Revolutions To Develop A Feminist Agenda
In Gathering Rage, writer, poet,and activist Margaret Randall describes how two of these revolutions, in Nicaragua and Cuba, addressed or failed to address a feminist agenda. Writing as both observer and participant, Randall vividly describes how in each case, to varying degrees and in different ways, women’s issues were gradually pushed aside. Combining anecdotes with analysis, she shows how distorted visions of liberation and shortcomings in practice left a legacy that not only shortchanged women but undermined the revolutionary project itself.
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The Essential Rosa Luxemburg
This new, authoritative introduction to Rosa Luxemburg’s two most important works presents the full text of Reform or Revolution and The Mass Strike, with explanatory notes, appendices, and introductions.

One of the most important Marxist thinkers and leaders of the twentieth century, Rosa Luxemburg is finding renewed interest among a new generation of activists and critics of global capitalism.
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An Anarchist FAQ
The bible of anarchism! This exhaustive volume, the first of two, seeks to provide answers for the curious and critical about anarchist theory, history, and practice. More a reference volume than a primer, An Anarchist FAQ eschews curt answers and engages with questions in a thorough, matter-of-fact style.

Having been an internet staple for over a decade, we are proud to offer this solicitously edited print version. AFAQ’s oversized and affordable format (topping out at over 700 pages) will ensure it a place on every shelf, where it will be referenced again and again.
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How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth
Bringing to bear more than twenty years of experience as an environmental journalist, Kempf describes the invincibility that many of the world’s wealthy feel in the face of global warming, and how their unchecked privilege is thwarting action on the single most vexing problem facing our world.

In this important primer on the link between global ecology and the global economy, Kempf makes the following observations: First, that the planet’s ecological situation is growing ever worse, despite the efforts of millions of engaged citizens around the world. And second, despite environmentalists’ emphasis that “we’re all in the same boat,” the world’s economic elites—who continue to benefit by plundering the environment—have access to “lifeboats” that insulate them from the resulting catastrophes.
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This Friday we will be ordering new books from AK Press (once they're back from the Oakland General Strike!), so stay tuned for some new material over the next month or so. Also, Justseeds posters are back on the site for your viewing pleasure.
In Solidarity,
Katipo Books Workers' Co-Operative