Occupy Christcurch open university

January 23, 2012

day of free workshops on Sunday, February 12th in South Hagley Park.

An initiative of Occupy Christchurch

10am: Occupy Movement and Local Issues

How can we develop the Occupy Movement to be an effective political and social force in Christchurch and Canterbury?

11am: Situationism & post situationism

The Situationist International, having been cited as an inspiration for  OWS, deserve a second look. While aspects of the SIs’ pre-68 analysis and even modified lessons from the May-June ’68 “evenements” themselves have been seamlessly integrated into OWSs’ processes, as the general assembly, strictly mandated “working group” sub committees and so on, using information readily available on the web, I think there are lessons in the underreported years ’69 to 2010 that haven’t been looked at yet.

12pm: Cooking with Bartman

A cooking lesson from one of Occupy Corners resident chefs

1pm:Breakforlunch.

2pm:FacilitatingConsensus.

A workshop to develop skills and understanding of the role of facilitation in consensus based groups. Discussion will cover decision-making tools, active listening skills, hierarchy, participation, and working together. Facilitator - Joanna Wildish.

3pm:Feminism

The issue of the oppression of women in our society is one that every social movement should be engaging with. This workshop will be a space for discussion of feminist issues.

4pm: Mental Health

With mental illness effecting one in five people, mental health is a topic we need to engage with. Discussions on the relationship between capitalism, activism and mental health, and sharing of information to challenge stigma and discrimination onsite will be the basis of this workshop.

5pm: The Mechanics of Capitalism

How does capitalism work? Topics covered will be the class nature of society, exploitation, hegemony and more.


Occupy Nigeria leads to general strike

January 21, 2012

Despite its obvious inspiration in the Arab Spring, the global Occupy Movement is most prominent in relatively wealthy countries. This does not mean the movement has not appealed to those in the global south- often Occupy protests have not taken place in these countries because social movements with their own identities were already in progress when people in New York started camping out on Wall Street. Rather than being sneered at however the Occupy Movement has been welcomed as a showing of solidarity. Indian activist Arundati Roy  told an audience in New York;

“The Occupy movement has joined thousands of other resistance movements all over the world in which the poorest of people are standing up and stopping the richest corporations in their tracks. Few of us dreamed that we would see you, the people of the United States on our side, trying to do this in the heart of Empire. I don’t know how to communicate the enormity of what this means.”

The show of solidarity with activists in the developing and under developed world could be why socialists and labour activists in Nigeria decided to adopt the name ‘Occupy Nigeria’ for the protests they began in January this year.

Background

There are many reasons for Nigerians to protest. Despite being one of the worlds biggest oil exporters (the largest in Africa) much of the population lives on less than US$2 a day. Corruption is rife in the government, infrastructure is badly maintained and food prices are on the rise. Despite all this, mass protests were not expected by many commentators. “even though Nigeria is just a few hours flight from Egypt or Libya, no one believed for a moment that the winds of change would reach Africa’s most populous nation.” wrote Michael Bociurkiw, a Canadian journalists who was in Nigeria during the Arab Spring.

That all changed when the Nigerian government announced on January 1st that it was ending a fuel subsidy resulting in a doubling of fuel and transport prices. The result of this was that many Nigerians could not afford to get to work, or power the generators that are relied on because of a blackout prone electricity system, The ending of subsidized fuel was the spark that set things aflame .

Protests and general strike

Following the announcement protesters shut down petrol stations and blockaded highways. Nigerias union movement called for an indefinite general strike on January 9th. Chris Uyot of the Nigeria Labour Congress told the BBC “We have the total backing of all Nigerian workers on this strike and mass protest”. Thousands gathered daily in Gani Fawehinmi Park in Lagos. The gathering in the park featured speeches by labour leaders and civil society activists, as well as, artists’ performances.

After a week the general strike achieved a partial victory, with president President Goodluck Jonathan announcing a cut in fuel prices, although it fell short of the previous subsidy.

The role of imperialism

The reason behind the ending of fuel subsidies was repaying public debt. Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, visited Nigeria in December and around the same time the World Bank sent its executive director Nguzi Okonjko-Iwela to take over as the country’s  finance minister. She was also made co-ordinating minister of the economy, a portfolio created especially for her.

Nigeria has borrowed vast amounts of money to fund the infrastructure required to obtain and export its oil reserves, yet it sees very little of the wealth the stems from the oil industry. Much of the media converge has pointed out the cost the general strike has had to the economy- estimates range in the billions- but rarely is it noted that the average Nigerian hasn’t missed out on any of this money, instead the ones missing out are Shell, Chevron, Agip and Total.

Further reading: Occupy Nigeria Takes On Nigeria’s Occupiers


Mana: We Support the Wharfies

January 21, 2012

“MANA supports wholeheartedly the rights of the wharfies who work for the Port of Auckland,” states MANA leader Hone Harawira. Harawira says “Workers across the country need to wake up and smell the coffee - if the wharfies lose this fight then the casualisation of working hours will become a permanent feature of employment in this country. Everybody who earns a low to middle income job will have to wait by their phones for their boss to call to see if they are working or not, not knowing how many hours they will work and be paid for each week.”

“As a country we should be doing our utmost to back our wharfies. Despite the efforts of National and the country’s media to make this dispute about money, this is all about having reliable and stable employment. The workers want to know that they have a set number of hours per week. If it was about the money why would they only want to settle for a 2.5% pay rise when they are being offered 10%? What I don’t understand is why the workers are being held responsible for risks to the business. Tony Gibson will get his huge salary each week no matter what and the Council wants a 12% return on capital no matter what. It is the wharfies who are expected to pay the price each week if business is down. Under any other business regime, the owner is the one who takes the risk, not the workers!

“As for politicians saying that we should not get involved, what a load of crap. This dispute became political when Rodney Hide set up the appointments of the Board of Directors for the port…

“In 1951 there was a watershed strike involving wharfies. Today we are faced with another defining moment regarding employment rights in this country. Rest assured that if the wharfies lose then this right wing Government will see it as an endorsement to go ahead with the casualisation of hours and it will be another blow to the union movement, a movement that has for so long protected blue collar workers.”


#transphobictampons: It’s Not Offensive, It’s Oppressive

January 20, 2012

Kassie Hartendorp, Workers Party member and Queer Avenger.

At the end of 2011, an advertisement for Libra tampons was pulled from air after members from the queer community called out the company for its transphobia. Many argued that the company was sending a strong message to those who did not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, that they were not as ‘authentic’ as their biological counterparts.

The issue was framed as being problematic for only a small amount of ‘oversensitive’ members of the trans community but the advertisement can be linked back to the way that negative images work to oppress many on the gender and sexuality spectrum.

Read the rest of this entry »


Auckland event tonight: Victory To The Wharfies

January 19, 2012

Public meeting: How can we support the Auckland port workers?

Tonight 7:30pm

Trades Hall, 147 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland


Don’t Talk to Me About Sewing Machines, Talk to Me About Workers’ Rights! A Call to Action for Socialists from a revolutionary hooker

January 19, 2012

Greta de Graves

 The question of how to relate to sex workers (in this article, I will use the term ‘sex worker’ to refer to workers in commercialised sexual encounters, including, but not limited to prostitutes, strippers, go-go dancers, and pornographic actors of all genders) has been a topic of contention for many Marxist and other radical activists, and the New Zealand left has not been exempt from this struggle.  The rationales that I have heard as to why the left is often ambivalent towards sex worker struggles are diverse, ranging from “all commercialised sex is inherently sexist and politically incorrect – it is a tactical mistake to ‘normalise’ sex work” to “sex workers are unintelligent and non-political – it would be a waste of our time and energy to politically align ourselves with them.”

Such attitudes (voiced to me by experienced and hard-working activists) are in direct conflict to my experience as a sex worker.  My experiences that lead me into the sex industry conformed to every sad stereotype prevalent in popular culture – I was left in a huge amount of debt at the break-up of an unhealthy relationship, and was struggling to come to terms with the suicide of a close friend.  I experienced poor mental health and was unable to find work that would allow me to pay off my debts and fit in with my existing job and study.  I felt depressed, un-attractive and had a low sex drive.  I didn’t believe that anyone would ever love or even sexually desire me – a crazy, neurotic failure – ever again.

And then a friend told me that she was thinking of working as a prostitute – and it occurred to me “well, why couldn’t I do that?”  While I had a fairly sheltered upbringing, I had always had a fascination with what I perceived to be the glamorous “underworld” that sex workers occupied.  Of course, the reality proved to be far different.  In my experience, the vast majority of consumers of commercial sex in New Zealand can only be described as normal. Of different races, different personalities, different apparent socio-economic and educational backgrounds, different ages, some married, some single, but none of them the type society would classify as “deviant,” or who would arouse suspicion in their friends, families and colleagues that they paid for sexual services.

Read the rest of this entry »


On the party question

January 18, 2012

Goodbye Lenin?

This article was first written for internal circulation. We publish it now in light of public discussions among Socialist Worker comrades, partly regarding the party question (Goodbye Lenin? and Towards Ecosocialism.)

On February the 4th 2011, in the lead-up to our partys’ first internal conference of the year, a cross-section of leading comrades posted a statement resigning from the Workers Party. This statement argued that communist ‘party-building’ is impossible in the present conditions. As this statement raises important questions of political line that confront many communist and radical groups, it is necessary to engage with it; ultimately, to justify the very existence of communist organisations.

As the statement asserts that our comrades’ resignations are driven by “bigger and deeper” problems, we will not go into the sordid details of the lead-up to this development. Rather, we will engage directly with the content of their statement, available here.

In short, our comrades assert that given the lack of a mass workers’ movement in New Zealand today, communist party-building is futile. In particular, this affects recruitment:
“Those conditions meant that recruiting workers and progressives into the organisation has been very difficult.”

Read the rest of this entry »


The Dialectical Relationship between Work and Mental Health (Part 1)

January 18, 2012

is work good for mental health?

This article is the first in series by Kelly Pope addressing the issues of work and mental health from Marxist perspective. For more information on the concept of dialectics see http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/d/i.htmIn this article the term ‘mental health community’ refers to those people experiencing mental illness or distress, and ‘consumer’ refers to those using or having previously used psychiatric services..

The role work plays in the mental health of people experiencing mental illness is complex, with research on the topic appearing somewhat contradictory on the surface, the most prominent contradiction being whether work is overall beneficial or detrimental to well-being and recovery. Research suggests that employment, or engagement in meaningful contribution is a “critical component of the pathway to recovery” (Mental Health Commission, 2001, cited in Duncan and Peterson, 2007) and that the most significant employment challenge for people experiencing mental illness is overcoming structural barriers to attaining work. At the same time, other studies indicate that the correlation between work and wellness is not so clear-cut, and that the kinds of jobs most accessible to the mental health community are also those with the highest likelihood of decreasingwell-being and obstructing recovery. In approaching this conflict through a dialectical analysis, the question of interplay between work and mental health moves from one of ‘is work more beneficial or detrimental to recovery and wellbeing’ to one of ‘how can the contradictions of employment’s simultaneous facilitation and eroding of wellness be resolved’. Read the rest of this entry »


1000 a year die from work

January 14, 2012

According to new statistics from the Department of Labour:

Is your work slowly killing you?Every year:

  • Workplace injuries are killing about 100 people
  • More than 700 people die prematurely from work-related illness or disease
  • More than 200,000 people are seriously harmed (this corresponds to 12 injuries for every 100 workers)1
  • There are more than 17,000 new cases of work-related disease, with between 2,500 – 5,500 classed as severe
  • Construction, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing and fishing consistently have above average fatal and major injury rates – accounting for approximately 37% of all ACC claims.2

Of those 200,000 serious injuries

  • The manufacturing sector has the highest number of work-related injuries
  • The highest injury-incidence rates are in the mining industry, construction industry, and agriculture, forestry and fishing sector
  • Sprains and strains are by far the most frequent injury (90,000 claims), followed by open wounds (37,000 claims)
  • An estimated 50% of injuries result in impairment, and 6% in permanent impairment.3

Death or injury on the worksite has been a constant battle between workers and bosses. This has existed going back to the first developments of capitalism in New Zealand, where a group of Bay of Islands Maori in 1821 staged the first strike, demanding “for their labour in money as was the case in England, or else in gunpowder.” or Samuel Parnell, a carpenter who on arrival in New Zealand in 1840 refused to work longer than an eight hour day.4 Read the rest of this entry »


2011 General Election Analysis

January 13, 2012

From the December-January issue of The Spark.For a longer piece on the Mana Party in the election, see this article.

The Key Factor: PR and The National Party

Novembers’ election saw a narrow victory for the National Party and its allies. Compared to their 2008 result, National saw their vote drop by about 10%- over 95,000 votes. They only received such a large share of the vote because Labours dropped even more- an enormous 255,000. ACT went from 5 MPs to 1, who would have been gone too if not for winning Epsom- the country’s richest electorate with the lowest Maori population. The Greens and NZ First were the only parties in parliament that grew their vote from 20081. 1 in 4 people did not vote. Read the rest of this entry »


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