Press release: University Tresspasses Political Dissent

Workers Party activists Heleyni Pratley and Joel Cosgrove have been trespassed from Victoria University for two years for participating in a student protest against University fee rises of over 90%.

Joel was involved in the throwing of a solitary egg which did not hit anyone. Heleyni threw nothing and instead stood prominently holding a Workers Party banner calling for `free education from kindergarten to PhD’. They and other activists cleaned up the eggshells before leaving.

Let us be very clear. Joel has been trespassed for throwing an egg which he cleaned up afterwards. Heleyni has been trespassed for nothing other than speaking her mind. She is being publicly attacked by the university for exercising her democratic right to protest and express free speech. She is being punished to make an example to anybody else, student or otherwise, who is considering standing up to university injustice.

There is a clear pattern emerging of the University’s disregard for any pretence of democracy or free speech on campus. Earlier this year Workers Party activist Ian Anderson was expelled for filming an anti-war protest. A number of other Workers Party activists have already been targeted and attacked by the university.

“In this case as in others it is clear that the University is targeting the people it sees as the leading activists organising against their slash and burn agenda,” says Mr. Cosgrove.

“The University is attempting to silence debate by expelling, trespassing and intimidating anyone it disagrees with,” he adds.

Joel was trespassed over the phone by a man named Darryl, who refused to give his last name or any way of verifying his statement.

Earlier that day Heleyni was met at her door by two men, who demanded to know where Joel was. On being asked to leave, they attempted to physically force their way into the property, against her repeated requests for them to leave, causing her to feel so threatened that she felt she had to slam the door shut and lock it to protect herself from the threat of violence. While this was happening they were yelling through the door in an abusive, aggressive manner that as she was Joel’s girlfriend she was also trespassed. Escaping in a friends car she was shadowed for sometime by the two men who followed her in a large, black SUV.

“I didn’t know who they were, or why they were harassing me, I should not be harassed and intimidated for standing up for what I believe in,” says Ms Pratley.

The Workers Party demands the immediate lifting of all trespasses by Victoria University and a full apology to Heleyni Pratley for the distress caused by their utterly inappropriate actions.

20 Responses to Press release: University Tresspasses Political Dissent

  1. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Not to be a nit-picker, but you cannot fall back on the defence of freedom of speech when you actively sought to deny that same right to others. Shouting over the top of those whom you disagree with and pelting them with fruit is not conducive to rational debate.

    Cheers, Matt.

  2. Phil says:

    I think you’re a bit confused again Matt.

    The University Council simply moved to another part of the university to carry out their fee-raising exercise. Our comrades are being trespassed from the whole of the university.

    Moreover, the council was attempting to raise fees and people were protesting against that. To draw an equals sign between the two is like is like saying that anti-tour protesters in 1981 can hardly claim rights when they were trying to deny the ‘right’ of rugby players and a section of their fans to engage in events which propped up apartheid South Africa.

    Phil

  3. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    No confusion, Phil - and i’m not sure what you’re referring to when you say ‘again’. If you’re referring to our previous debate over your article on the Marxian model of history and economics, well, i’m actually still waiting for you to reply to my last argument there (see http://workersparty.org.nz/2009/02/07/how-capitalism-works-%E2%80%93-and-doesn%E2%80%99t-work/)

    Just to be clear - I do NOT support Joel and Heleyni being trespassed for two years. I feel that this is a pretty major punishment for a rather minor act. I do, however, take issue with protestors that deny others the right to freedom of speech and then attempt to seek refuge behind that very same right. I fully support their right to voice their opinions in whatever fashion they choose (as evidenced by my support for Joel, Ian and Alastair when they were disenrolled for burning the flag on Anzac Day - see http://workersparty.org.nz/2009/05/24/oppose-the-expulsion-of-workers-party-activists-from-victoria-university/). However, I do not condone the monopolization of the debate by sheer noise and intimidation.

    Also, I fail to see the logic in your comparison of a simple rise in fees (however unfair it is to students) with propping up apartheid. The former was performed via an open forum at which student representatives had a voice, the end result of which is an extra few hundred dollars debt to the average student loan; the latter was an organised system of racism, repression and murder that spanned half a century and cost thousands of lives. The former involved a small handful of students who indiscriminantly pelted both university staff AND student representatives who were on their side; the latter was a mass movement with widepsread support, both nationally and internationally. To equate the two is a blatant misrepresentation that degrades the significance of the struggle against apartheid.

    Cheers, Matt.

  4. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    No confusion, Phil – and i’m not sure what you’re referring to when you say ‘again’. If you’re referring to our previous debate over your article on the Marxian model of history and economics, well, i’m actually still waiting for you to reply to my last argument there (see http://workersparty.org.nz/2009/02/07/how-capitalism-works-%E2%80%93-and-doesn%E2%80%99t-work/)

    Just to be clear – I do NOT support Joel and Heleyni being trespassed for two years. I feel that this is a pretty major punishment for a rather minor act. I do, however, take issue with protestors that deny others the right to freedom of speech and then attempt to seek refuge behind that very same right. I fully support their right to voice their opinions in whatever fashion they choose (as evidenced by my support for Joel, Ian and Alastair when they were disenrolled for burning the flag on Anzac Day – see http://workersparty.org.nz/2009/05/24/oppose-the-expulsion-of-workers-party-activists-from-victoria-university/). However, I do not condone the monopolization of the debate by sheer noise and intimidation.

    Also, I fail to see the logic in your comparison of a simple rise in fees (however unfair it is to students) with propping up apartheid. The former was performed via an open forum at which student representatives had a voice, the end result of which is an extra few hundred dollars debt to the average student loan; the latter was an organised system of racism, repression and murder that spanned half a century and cost thousands of lives. The former involved a small handful of students who indiscriminantly pelted both university staff AND student representatives who were on their side; the latter was a mass movement with widepsread support, both nationally and internationally. To equate the two is a blatant misrepresentation that degrades the significance of the struggle against apartheid.

    Cheers, Matt.

  5. Don Franks says:

    “Shouting over the top of those whom you disagree with and pelting them with fruit is not conducive to rational debate.”

    You’re quite right.

    However, rational debate was never part of this wee blip in the cosmos. This thing is not at all about rational debate.

    For the last decade I’ve been involved in student struggles against rising fees, sometimes as a paid student organiser, sometimes as an activist and sometimes as an adviser. We have argued, organised, published, postered, marched, chalked and occupied buildings. All to no avail. The man has the power; this has been for me a one sided battle of a few young people against the capitalist machine.

    There is no debate going on that will settle the issue. It’s about power.
    We are in a struggle to change the system and it will get a lot rougher than eggs and chants before anything substantial happens. Precious wanna be Labour mps in and around VUWSA have an instinctive awareness of these truths, to bolster their careers they will scream about eggs and oranges and regulation, hoping that big daddy will take due note of their dutiful noise and reward them for it.

  6. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Don:
    “rational debate was never part of this wee blip in the cosmos. This thing is not at all about rational debate.”

    Statements like this ignore the fact that critical engagement by the student body has achieved far more in the past decade than showers of fruit and eggs have (and with far less potential to damage the reputation of the student body in general). The proposed closure of the Film School last year is a prime example - university staff were led to reverse their decision by hundreds of student submissions and a petition run by VUWSA, along with a series of constructive protests. Or the TEC’s rejection of VUW’s attempt to raise fees by 10% in 2007, influenced by student submissions and protests. Contrast these examples with a small handful of individuals claiming to represent the entire student body who hurl abuse and fresh produce at both university staff AND at individuals fighting for students (i.e. Jasmine Freemantle, Matthew Davis). Such acts generate negative publicity and tarnish the image of the general student body, making any future attempts at genuine engagement seem less credible.

    You should also note that the typical annual fee increase is capped at 5%, which is only slightly above the rate of inflation. Yes, I understand that you are campaigning for free tertiary education, but that is a moral position rather than a pragmatic one - quality education costs money, and it is only fair that a portion of that money come from the students who are paying for it (but that is a different discussion entirely).

    Don:
    “There is no debate going on that will settle the issue. It’s about power.”

    If that were strictly true, then all forms of mass protest would automatically be doomed to failure as they are not ‘in power’. I suggest you read Foucault’s expositions on power structures, and how there are multiple poles of power in any given social system. Power is an essentially subjective term; whilst the state (or in this case the university) may hold the sole claim to legitimacy due to its institutionalised nature, this does not mean that disparate interest groups who campaign against them cannot influence, affect, or outright reverse their actions. More to the point, if abuses in institutional power became routine at VUW, students still possess the power to vote with their feet (i.e. leave en masse, thus robbing the university of its source of income).

    Don:
    “We are in a struggle to change the system and it will get a lot rougher than eggs and chants before anything substantial happens.”

    Can you not see the base hypocricy in this statement? You cannot advocate for freedom of speech and democratic practices in one breath when you propose violent revolution and the suppression of an entire subset of ideas with another. That’s basically like saying you’re all for freedom of speech, so long as everybody agrees with you. Whilst I don’t want to single out one single WP member above others, i’ve noticed that Alastair Reith is fond of this - he passionately advocates for the democratic right to freedom of speech, yet he openly idolises Mao Zedong and accepts his often violent measures as necessary to suppress “counter-revolutionaries”.

    Cheers, Matt.

  7. Don Franks says:

    Yes, mass protest can and does effect some beneficial social changes, but, unless it takes the form of a revolutionary movement, it can’t alter the basic structure of capitalist society.
    Unfortunately the abuses of institutional power at Victoria university have definitely become routine. Students have been severely punished for filming a protest or for calling out slogans.
    Your supposed student option of leaving en masse is as valid as saying if people don’t like global warming they can always go to a cooler planet.
    What I propose and try to help bring about is not the suppression of ” an entire subset of ideas”, but the abolition of an inhuman social system. Freedom of speech is not a neutral universal right. Capitalism only allows freedom of speech and democratic practices as long as they don’t seriously challenge the ability of the capitalist class to exploit workers. At Victoria university, freedom of speech is even more restricted, for example, Heleni’s shocking treatment by the authorities.

  8. WP Admin says:

    Out of curiosity Matt, what tactics would you advocate? Aside from a bit of target practice.

  9. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Well Don, here is where you and I fundamentally disagree – whether capitalism is an adequate and just socioeconomic system or whether it should be replaced with socialism. With myself believing the former, I advocate that all forms of protest should generally strive to remain within the framework espoused by the system. With yourself advocating the latter, you believe that measures such as those carried out by the fee rise protestors are acceptable under the mantle of replacing an ‘inhuman social system’. Alas, I fear that this is the point where the discussion may descend into relativism (I believe in capitalism, you believe in socialism); however, for interest’s sake, I will make the following general points:

    1.) Your support for a ‘revolutionary movement’ that ‘alter[s] the basic structure of capitalist society’ is predicated on the Marxian notion of economic determinism that states that communism is the ultimate end-goal towards which history is progressing. With this in mind, Marxists can relegate other stages of development (such as capitalism) to the historical dust-bin as inherently contradictory. HOWEVER, this again is predicated on the notion that Marx was correct – something that the evidence is weighed against.

    Firstly, as Phil Ferguson will tell you, history is a complex tapestry of events, causes and connections, and ANY attempt (whether Marxist or other) to apply one macrohistorical model to the entire tapestry (however elegant said model is) will ultimately result in oversimplification and generalisation. Put simply, history HAS no direction, save those themes cast upon it by human thinkers in retrospect.

    Secondly, Marx’s model of history postulates that each evolutionary stage of society breeds within it the very seeds of its own destruction. These occur as contradictions within the superstructure that ultimately bring about a reconfiguration of the base. This certainly holds true in the classic case of the French Revolution and the appropriation of the means of production by the bourgeoisie; HOWEVER, Marx’s theories on how this would occur in capitalism have been proven wrong. Marx claimed that socialist revolution would emerge firstly in industrialised nations at the forefront of the capitalist world, when historically it has actually occurred in impoverished and underdeveloped nations whose citizenry are eager for any ideology that promises release from said conditions. Lenin then went on to explain this by claiming that industrialised nations could prop up capitalism through imperialism – opening up third world countries for ruthless expropriation of their resources to placate the masses back home. Again, this has proven incorrect; the ‘Asian Dragons’ have experienced immense economic growth in the past few decades in their own right, whilst economic disparities have shrunk in the post-Soviet world (see the works of Xavier Martin, for example). The simple truth is that, whilst people may discriminate, capital doesn’t – it goes wherever it can be most efficiently used.

    Thirdly, almost every model of revolutionary socialism in the past hundred years has failed – relegated to the same dust-bin that capitalism was supposedly aimed for. Whether through inefficient command economies, repressive and totalitarian government policies, a complete lack of any form of democracy (either political or economic), or brutality and mass murder of its own citizenry, socialism has (historically) proven itself completely incompatible with the end goals that it advocates (i.e. freedom, egalitarianism, material abundance, the withering of the state). This does not mean that a new model cannot be advocated that could address these historical flaws – however, I’ve yet to see one, and my probes on this site on this very topic have yet to yield any fruit (see http://workersparty.org.nz/2009/02/07/how-capitalism-works-%E2%80%93-and-doesn%E2%80%99t-work/, for example).

    2.) You support for the ‘abolition of an inhuman social system’ is predicated on the notion that capitalism IS an inhuman social system. Can I assume that the basis of your argument is around Marx’s theory of surplus value – that being, that the labourer only receives a portion of the value they produce, whilst the ‘surplus’ is expropriated by the employer or ‘capitalist’? In Marxist terms this is typically cast as an allegory for slavery, as a supposed non-productive class is essentially living off the wealth produced by the productive class. Objectively, I cannot deny this – the whole nature of profit is driven by the idea of surplus. HOWEVER, in contrast to the slavery allegory, let me posit the following:

    Firstly – the expansion of existing industry and the creation of new industry is facilitated through the application of surplus. In a capitalist system this surplus is privately controlled; in a socialist system this surplus is publicly owned (typically via the mechanism of the state). Historically, capitalism has proven to be vastly superior to socialism in the application of surplus value – hence why capitalist economies always out-perform command economies. There are several reasons for this – a greater focus on personal incentive, the decentralisation of economic activity allowing for a more efficient gauge of supply and demand. Whilst the appropriation of surplus might look unfair, it becomes a necessary evil in facilitating overall economic growth.

    Secondly – the only universal human value that can be relied upon is rational self-interest. Socialism, like fascism and other historical ‘isms’, depends upon the creation of a ‘new man’ who is preconditioned toward altruism. However, altruism is not a universal instinct – only rational self-interest, an extension of survival instinct, is. Therefore capitalism, which is tailored toward personal incentive, becomes the system best geared toward human nature. Again, I raised these and similar points at http://workersparty.org.nz/2009/02/07/how-capitalism-works-%E2%80%93-and-doesn%E2%80%99t-work/.

    And now on to some of your specific points:
    “Your supposed student option of leaving en masse is as valid as saying if people don’t like global warming they can always go to a cooler planet.”

    This is a false analogy – you’re implying that there is only one university in the world and that students have no choice but to stick with it. My argument was that if the conditions at any given university become as abusive as you have indicated, the students still have the freedom to leave and pursue their education elsewhere. This gives them power as the university’s very survival is dependant upon its students.

    “Freedom of speech is not a neutral universal right.”
    I disagree. I believe that, so long as you are not actively hurting anyone, repressing the ideas and beliefs of others, or breaking the law, you are free to say and do whatever you want. Hence why I staunchly supported Joel, Alastair and Ian after the flag burning incident, despite the fact that I adamantly disagreed with the stunt itself. Conversely, the fee-rise protest involved an active attempt to deny others the right to speak, as well as physical intimidation. This, in my books, is not on.

    And finally, in response to WP Admin:
    “Out of curiosity Matt, what tactics would you advocate? Aside from a bit of target practice.”

    In a progressive society like the one we currently live in, I support any measures that do not hurt others, that do not deny others the right to voice their own opinions, and that do not contravene the law. The last one is a bit tricky as obviously there are cases where a law may be enacted that contravenes the first two – such as the EFA. And of course in countries like apartheid South Africa or Colonial India lawbreaking is often a necessity – such as Gandhi’s peaceful non-compliance. But in New Zealand, where the law is wide and flexible enough to allow an infinite number of colourful protests, I see no need to contravene these three conditions. As regards the fee-rise – why not try raising awareness amongst the student body? Organise mass demonstrations instead of sending a tiny number of fruit-throwers into a meeting? If it’s worked in analogous situations, why not now?

    Cheers, Matt.

    • WP Admin says:

      “economic disparities have shrunk in the post-Soviet world (see the works of Xavier Martin, for example).”

      All Martin established is that economic growth has occurred in those years. His unwillingness to look at disparities within nations, which in many cases increased, means his approach will fundamentally never gel with any leftist analysis concerned with class structure.

      Workers in NZ under capitalism right now will not get results by reading Foucault and writing letters to their local MPs. All the gains we’ve won have been fought for, and a lot of them have since been stripped back by the ruling class - the unrestricted right to strike, for example. The only really practical point you’ve offered is the need to organise mass-protests against fee-setting; unfortunately this was a last minute thing arranged by the Campaigns Officer at VUWSA, and we did what we could to make an impact. In future, more advance organising is a good idea.

  10. Don Franks says:

    Well its basically all summed up in your first two sentences Matt.
    Capitalism thinks its “equitable and just” for thousands of us to do some of its most essential work for $12.50 an hour, with no security of tenure. Ask a bus driver or a cleaner or cheese factory worker or a linesman what happens when you try to legally organise for a better deal.

    I’d just add a couple of points.

    Marxism does not equal economic or any other kind of determinism, although that charge has often been laid by people hostile to revolutionary ideas. Marxism is dialectical materialism in the service of proletarian revolution.

    It is time the Walt Disney type myth about “Gandhi’s peaceful non-compliance” was replaced by some history. British rule was removed from India by violent struggle and the oppressed threw much harder stuff than eggs and oranges.

  11. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Don:
    “Capitalism thinks its “equitable and just” for thousands of us to do some of its most essential work for $12.50 an hour, with no security of tenure.”

    Capitalism doesn’t ‘think’ - like any ideology it is simply an idea. It’s also not a homogenous entity - you would well know the vast array of different positions along the ideological spectrum to the right of socialism. Hence, to say that ‘Capitalism thinks its “equitable and just” for thousands of us to do some of its most essential work for $12.50 an hour’ is incorrect; rather, a portion of capitalist thinkers believe that $12.50 per hour is an appropriate minimum wage. Many others (myself among them) do not and advocate for an increase in the minimum wage to meet a basic living standard. Hence why I support Unite’s $15 minimum wage campaign.

    Don:
    “Marxism does not equal economic or any other kind of determinism, although that charge has often been laid by people hostile to revolutionary ideas. Marxism is dialectical materialism in the service of proletarian revolution.”

    Dialectical materialism roughly equates to economic determinism, in outlook at least. The basic premise of dialectics in conjunction with materialism is the idea of inherent contradiction as the driver of social change. The thesis and the antithesis conflict and combine to result in a new synthesis. In materialist terms this equates to the control over the means of production - those who possess this control (the nobility and landed elite under feudalism, the bourgeois under capitalism) breed the conditions of their demise at the hands of those who do not possess this control. To Marx, the end goal of this process could only be socialism and communism, wherein the means of production are collectively owned. Hence, economic determinism - the end goal of history is predetermined, albeit via theory rather than a crystal ball. Hence also my opposition to Marx’s theory - whilst useful as a heuristic device, I simply cannot believe such a simplistic view of history as a whole.

    Don:
    “British rule was removed from India by violent struggle and the oppressed threw much harder stuff than eggs and oranges.”

    Whilst there was indeed violent revolutionary activity against the British in India during the first half of the twentieth century (Tehrek e Reshmi Rumal, the Chittagong armory raid, the Kakori train robbery), the overwhelming majority of resitance DID take the form of peaceful non-compliance. One only needs to look at the numbers to see this fact; TENS of MILLIONS participated in Salt Satyagraha, for instance, whilst Jugantar had only a few dozen members. In fact, many violent revolutionaries (including the Jugantar party) actually went on to join Gandhi’s movent.

    Note that this does not mean that non-violence is always an option - Harry Turtledove wrote a counterfactual on just how powerless non-resistance would have been had the Nazis invaded India - rather, I merely wish to point out how non-violence is far more successful in progressive Western countries like New Zealand. Throwing fruit when multiple other avenues are open to you only makes you look bad.

    Cheers, Matt.

  12. Don Franks says:

    Matt, political struggle for social justice is not some sort of supermarket stroll where everyone in society can leisurely assess this or that “model” on the shelf and pick the one they think looks the coolest. It is a brutal, unequal and often very untidy struggle for power. Capitalism is not just “any ideology” It is an historically arrived at economic and political system. A system which appeared and continues dripping at every pore with blood and dirt.
    The ruling class of the capitalist system think it is ok for most of us to eat shit and they and their armed forces are the ones in power, so that is what will happen untill we overturn their system.
    If you want to ascribe to Karl Marx simplistic schoolboy type views that he never advanced I guess that is your perogative but it don’t make them so.

  13. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Respectfully Don, you haven’t addressed any of the salient points in my last two posts. I’ve raised a number of questions and arguments and i’ve also addressed each of your points in turn. Your response (especially in your last post) has been to resort to simple revolutionary rhetoric. Whilst this rhetoric may feel good, it doesn’t contribute to rational debate.

    I think i’ve provided a pretty well thought out interpretation of both dialectical materialism and economic determinism. I find it interesting that you accuse me of holding “simplistic schoolboy type views” about Marxism when your vitriolic caricatures of capitalism bear little or no scholarly depth. I’m a supporter of capitalism, yet I am neither bloodthirsty or dirt-ridden. Where does that fit into your image?

    Anyway, this discussion is getting a little off topic, and i’ll admit that’s my fault. My original reason for posting here was simply to comment on the protest methods employed by Joel et al. at the fee rise meeting, and I stand by those comments.

    Cheers, Matt.

  14. Don Franks says:

    Ok Matt, we’ll probably just have to agree to disagree about some things. I have to get on with some other pressing stuff, including helping defend comrades harshly and unreasonably punished by Victoria university, so this will probably be my last comment on this thread.

    To get back to the original point, yes, it would have been better if all the students opposed to fee rises had united and made a reasoned constructive legal protest, and the university authorities had said to themselves well, goodness me, most of our students are unhappy with out decision,so democracy demands that we alter it. And so they did and everyone lived happily ever after. Why doesn’t life operate like that when large amounts of money are at stake?

    You didn’t address my question: “Ask a bus driver or a cleaner or cheese factory worker or a linesman what happens when you try to legally organise for a better deal.” It is not a caricature of capitalism but an observation of it to note that the mass of producers are exploited and subject to increasing poverty and insecurity, and this situation is ultimately enforced by the armed forces of the state. Ask yourself why union officials don’t ever call the police when a job is unsafe or workers are locked out, or when a workplace is arbitarily shut down.

    You may be the least bloodthirsty individual in New Zealand but that has little bearing on the system you support. John Key will still follow in Labour’s footsteps and dispatch more New Zealand soldiers to kill people in Afghanistan and the cops will still taser and shoot people and break low paid workers picketlines here at home. The flashy looking bits of capitalism come at a high price to the majority of the worlds people.

  15. Seann Paurini says:

    This was an EAG protest, organised by the EAG, the protest arm of VUWSA. The protest was legitimate and the issues of rising fees are serious. The university shows it contempt every year on the matter of fees and always overreacts as it usually does with minor creative kerfuffles’. That Joel and Helenyi are no longer enrolled students is of no consequence, Helenyi is a permanent member of the university community by virtue of being a graduate and Joel is a former student president of VUWSA. As Welfare Organiser at VUWSA, I will do all that I can to support our EAG members. I expect VUWSA to show the same support and care.

  16. Cameron says:

    ‘But in New Zealand, where the law is wide and flexible enough to allow an infinite number of colourful protests, I see no need to contravene these three conditions.’

    Nearly all the well known protest movements in New Zealand history have used tactics that were considered illegal at the time. For example Te Whiti’s civil disobedience campaign at Parihaka was illegal and got him thrown in prison. During WWI a number of anti-war activists, including future Prime Minister Peter Fraser, were thrown in prison for opposing conscription.

    I’m sure Bastion Point, on Auckland’s waterfront, would now be rich people’s mansions, rather than a Marae and park if Ngati Whatua and their allies had not illegally occupied it in the late 1970s. White South Africans watching their first ever live rugby broadcast in 1981 probably would not have realised the depth of opposition overseas to Apartheid if activists had not occupied the field in Hamilton. South African TV censors could hardly stop images of hundreds of people storming the field.

    Also who could forget the images of Marx Jones’ plane flour bombing Eden Park. As the subtitles say at the end of the film ‘Patu’, many New Zealanders did prison time because of their stand against Apartheid in 1981.

    Anyway I think you catch my drift. Political change, even in a seemingly democratic country like New Zealand, rarely comes from solely ‘legal’ avenues such as writing letters to politicians and meetings with MPs.

  17. Joel says:

    Just making a quick point, there’s that footage floating around of Richard Prebble getting egged in the late 80′s during Rogernomics. That is replayed again and again on a wide variety of shows often for amusement. I see very little critique of THAT act.

  18. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Cameron:

    You’re raised some very good points here, and i’ll accept that these historical examples demonstrate how acting outside the law can at times prove to be beneficial. Nevertheless, i’ll add a few caveats to that - one of scale, one of non-violence, one of viable alternatives, and one of present context.

    Firstly, scale. The anti-conscription protests are a great example of citizens being punished for practicing freedom of speech; similarly, the anti-Springbok activities (along with the more recent deliberate contravening of the Electoral Finance Act) are examples of constructive lawbreaking. I described such a caveat in my response to WPAdmin above, where I said:

    “I support any measures that do not hurt others, that do not deny others the right to voice their own opinions, and that do not contravene the law. The last one is a bit tricky as obviously there are cases where a law may be enacted that contravenes the first two – such as the EFA.”

    However, compare the context of these activities with the fee rise protest - institutionalised racism and oppression versus a $250 increase in student fees. Breaking the law to oppose racism isn’t the same thing as hurling fruit at a panel seeking to increase fees by a paltry amount - especially when students have democratic representation on said panel. The former CANNOT be used to justify the latter.

    Secondly, non-violence. Egg and fruit throwing may seem harmless enough, but it could have actually hurt someone (for example Jamine Freemantle who was hit in the back of the head with a grapefruit). The examples you’ve listed above did not involve the use of physical force or intimidation by the protestors. As i’ve stated above, i’m not saying that violence should ALWAYS be discounted (Nelson Mandela and the ANC quite rightly argued this case against the apartheid government). I simply believe that tehre are ample other opportunities for protest methods in Western countries, as I stated above:

    “Note that this does not mean that non-violence is always an option – Harry Turtledove wrote a counterfactual on just how powerless non-resistance would have been had the Nazis invaded India – rather, I merely wish to point out how non-violence is far more successful in progressive Western countries like New Zealand. Throwing fruit when multiple other avenues are open to you only makes you look bad.”

    Although I suppose we should be grateful that it was fruit rather than stinkbombs as planned…

    Thirdly, viable alternatives. This may simply be an exercise in counterfactualism, but could the anti-tour protests in 1981 have been waged without resorting to lawbreaking? Mass gatherings and protests such as the various ‘colour’ revolutions that brought down Eastern European communist governments in the late 80s / early 90s managed to do so without breaking the law.

    And finally, current context. Some of the events you have listed (such as the government cracking down on anti-conscription protestors during World War One) would not happen today. The massive (and largely unopposed) anti-Iraq war protests in the early months of 2003 testify to this.

    Also, Joel, you said the following:
    “Just making a quick point, there’s that footage floating around of Richard Prebble getting egged in the late 80’s during Rogernomics. That is replayed again and again on a wide variety of shows often for amusement. I see very little critique of THAT act.”

    Had I known about it I would have critiqued it as well. Now let me post this question to you: how do you reconcile your extollations of the virtues of freedom of speech with shouting down members of the university panel and throwing fruit at them (including student representatives taking the same side as you). In the same vein, how do you reconcile it with your refusal to let representatives of government speak on the topic of student debt during the march on parliament last April (http://www.salient.org.nz/features/protests-galore)?

    Cheers, Matt.

  19. Joel says:

    //In the same vein, how do you reconcile it with your refusal to let representatives of government speak on the topic of student debt during the march on parliament last April//

    I’ll try put something longer in the near future.
    But on this one at the organising meeting preceding the march. We’d agreed that we would not have MPs speaking, but in the relatively limited time available we’d focus on giving students speaking time instead and demand that MPs go out and develop their education policies and present that to the public. Which is what was said on the day.
    The key difference as far as I see it is in the power balance. MPs have access to resources and support that in this case, students, don’t have.

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