Commentary on the Labour Party

March 20, 2012

In the wake of Labour Party leader David Shearer’s “Day One” speech, we republish two blog articles on the direction of the Labour Party. Reposting doesn’t necessarily imply a full endorsement of all arguments presented, however they offer a critical analysis worth engaging with.

The Workers Party considers Labour a capitalist party that must be abandoned, as outlined in our pamphlet The Truth about Labour.

Readingthemaps: Why Len Brown shows Labour its Future

Shearer and Pagani are chips from the same rotten block as Brown. A Shearer-led Labour government would cave to the demands of big business and the right just as quickly and completely as Len Brown… Instead of trying to expel Brown, Labour’s grassroots members should remove themselves from the party.

Bat, Bean, Beam: Finlands of the Mind

To put it another way, the question is just whom is David Shearer prepared to listen to, therefore not so much an issue of where he has been – in this instance we have a confirmed sighting, at Kiwi Foo – but also where he hasn’t, the crowds he won’t mix with, and what this rhetoric about listening means and the kind of politics that it produces.

March issue of The Spark online

March 19, 2012

In 2006 British singer-songwriter Sandi Thorm released ‘I wish I was a punk rocker’, a nostalgic song contrasting the radical social movements of the mid-20th century with the apathy of the early 21st. “In ‘77 and 69’ revolution was in the air, but I was born too late, into a world that didn’t care”.

Who could have imagined that just five years later we’d be seeing revolutions topple regimes across North Africa and the Middle East, the general strikes in Greece, the Global Occupy movement, and the massive industrial action of public sector workers in Wisconsin, USA?

While Time magazine named ‘The Protester’ as their person of the year for 2011, which will no doubt go down in the history books, 2012 is shaping up to be another year of protest. Although New Zealand may seem a world away from Athens or Zucotti Park, as we go to press over two thousand workers across the country are in the middle of industrial action; we have a round-up on the page 3.

We also look at the massive protest that took place in Christchurch against a massive pay rise for the city council CEO, which acted as a lightning rod for a whole number of issues in the quake stricken city. This issue has been expanded to include a discus- sion document by Mike Kay on Tino Rangatiratanga, the Treaty of Waitangi and the foreshore and seabed legislation. We have been addressing our stance on these issues in our organisation and publish this document to help open the discussion more broadly.

Another symptom of what could be seen as the beginning of an upturn in social struggles is the success of the queer liberation movement in Wellington especially. At less than 24-hour’s no- tice 60 people from the Queer Avengers picketed the offices of The Dominion Post after they published an opinion article that portrayed trans-gender individuals as unfit parents. As a result of the protest the Queer Avengers were given a right of reply. The subsequent article by Ian Anderson and Rosie-Jimson Healey is reprinted on page 15.

pdf here

Queer Avengers leaflet: Germaine Greer’s transphobia, a “ghastly parody” of women’s liberation

March 14, 2012

Germaine Greer has a decades-long history of fighting for her vision of women’s liberation. She also has a decades-long history of attacking transfolk, targeting particular venom at transwomen even in recent years.

In 1972, Greer was arrested in this country for using the word “bullshit.” We’re here to say that transphobia is bullshit.

‘Outing’ transwomen

Over the 1980s and 1990s, Germaine Greer participated in a witch-hunt against transwomen in prominent positions.

In 1996, Greer outed Rachel Padman, a physicist at an all-women college at Cambridge University. She stated that the “dignity of this college is marred by this unfortunate event.” Greer apparently had no interest in the dignity of Rachel Padman, who survived Greer’s repeated tabloid attacks and retained her position at Cambridge.

Refusing imposed roles

Greer treats gender variance as a threat to women’s liberation, stating in her book The Whole Woman that by respecting the right to self-identify, a woman “weakens her claim to have a sex of her own.”

Any vision of liberation that doesn’t respect the right to self-identify, to refuse imposed gender roles, will simply reproduce oppression. We need to support liberation for all women, for all people, for the right to refuse all imposed roles.

Transphobia in the 21st Century

As transfolk have become increasingly organised and developed a louder collective voice, many feminists dropped the overt transphobia. However Greer continues to insist on the importance of transphobia to women’s liberation.

Caster Semenya, whose gender has been called into question.

In a 2009 article on Caster Semenya, a particularly “blokish” sportswoman, Greer took the opportunity to take a swipe at transwomen:

Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so.

By stubbornly continuing to attack women on the trans spectrum, Greer herself has become a “ghastly parody” of women’s liberation. Any liberation movement that limits itself to cis-women will not progress.

The Queer Avengers is holding two events on transphobia and alternatives in the immediate future:

Queer Avengers Discussion Group: Gender Trouble
What is the difference between sex and gender?
What is the relationship between imposed gender roles and gender identity/expression?
How can we fight imposed gender roles, and why is it important?
TONIGHT (Wednesday March 14th) 7pm Anvil House

Press conference on media coverage of gender variance
TOMORROW (Thursday March 15th) 4:30pm Anvil House

Queer Avengers press release: Germaine Greer glitter-bombed

March 14, 2012

On March 14th at the Embassy Theatre, members of the Queer Avengers “glitter-bombed” feminist writer Germaine Greer, touring New Zealand as a part of Writers and Readers Week.

Glitter-bombing, or throwing glitter on public figures, has gained prominence internationally as a way to highlight transphobia and queerphobia. Greer has a history of denouncing transwomen; outing prominent transwomen and describing them as “ghastly parodies” of womanhood.

Transphobic feminism is so 20th Century,” asserted Stacey of the Queer Avengers. “It wasn’t okay then and it’s not okay now. Women’s liberation must mean the right to refuse imposed gender roles, to fight for diverse gender expression.”

The Queer Avengers also handed out leaflets stating “transphobia is bullshit.” Greer was arrested in 1972 while touring New Zealand, for saying the word “bullshit.”

The Queer Avengers recently stormed Fairfax Media headquarters in Wellington for giving a platform to anti-trans sentiments. The group will be holding a press conference on media coverage of gender variance on Thursday the 15th of March, 1:30pm at Anvil House.

Video: Sydney community picket in support of Auckland wharfies

March 13, 2012

Thousands protest against Christchurch City Council CEO’s pay rise

March 12, 2012

Kelly Pope is a Workers Party member in Christchurch who took part in the February protest for democracy in Christchurch. On our website we’ve already published a smaller article about the protest which was also written by Kelly.

One of the largest protests Christchurch has seen in the past decade took place on February 1 in response to lack of democracy and transparency within the Christchurch City Council. News sources estimate that up to 4000 people attended the midday demonstration held at the site next to the council offices where the St Elmo Courts building stood prior to earthquake damage and demolition. Protest organisers arranged for music to be played from the temporary stage and speaker set-up from 10am, and many people arrived early, having lunch in the empty lot.

When the protest got underway, people expressed their outrage, calling for the resignation of Mayor Bob Parker and council CEO Tony Marryatt as well as Autumn elections to select new council representatives. From the middle of the space where people gathered it was impossible to tell how far back the crowd stretched in any direction. A large number of people held banners and signs and the frustration was audible as people chanted and cheered. Read the rest of this entry »

Kony 2012: Or, how not to do charity

March 12, 2012

Founders of Invisible Children, which produced the Kony 2012 video, posing with the Ugandan army.

Originally published on Scoop, this piece by Anne Russell looks into the problems with the Kony 2012 campaign which has spread virally online, advocating US intervention in Uganda. The Workers Party opposes all Western imperialist intervention in the Third World.

Like many, I only recently heard of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa. The LRA was founded in Northern Uganda in 1987 by a group of militant Christians, but its ideology is unclear these days, as it seems merely determined to maintain power. The LRA’s atrocities, committed over the course of 25 years, have included rape, and the kidnapping and use of child soldiers. Although their power has waned in recent years, social media has brought them back into the spotlight. The charity Invisible Children Inc recently released a documentary called Kony 2012, designed to make Kony infamous, encouraging concerted efforts to arrest or kill him. The wonders of the information age have worked equally well in the two directions; the video has gone viral, and criticism of the documentary and its makers has rapidly sprung up in response, prompting discussion on the nature of benevolent racism, charities and foreign aid. Watch the video below. Read the rest of this entry »

Support striking and locked out workers at the ports, freezing works, rest homes

March 11, 2012

The following article by Workers Party members Mike Kay and Byron Clark serves as a small summary of some of the recent industrial action. We note from the time of publication these struggles would have changed and we will provide fuller analysis in an upcoming issue of The Spark.

The mood on the picket line at the Ports of Auckland remained staunch and upbeat after the first week of a four week strike. Several of other unions were flying their flags in solidarity, and a steady stream of toots in support flowed from the passing cars, trucks and trains.

A number of wharfies described their disappointment and anger at the lack of backing they have received from Labour-aligned Auckland mayor Len Brown. The dispute has inevitably taken on a political dimension, as plans to eventually privatise the port become more evident. The workers pride themselves on the shipshape safety culture they have established over the years on the Auckland wharf. But management continually try to push the envelope: “Young workers are being pressurised to drive the straddle cranes round like stock cars.”

Ships loaded by scab labour have been blacklisted by the International Transport Federation

Last month workers on the picket line witnessed two ships in port being unloaded by scab labour. Although the sight was a somewhat demoralising, the universal comment from the guys was: “just wait till that ship gets to Melbourne.” A great source of strength for the wharfies is knowing that the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF) has got their back. ITWF affiliated union members held a solidarity protest at the Port of Tauranga on March 3 despite torrential rain. Pickets also took place in Wellington where workers are refusing to move containers.

On March 7 Ports of Auckland announced it was making the 300 plus wharfies redundant and replacing them with casual labour. The Saturday after this thousands of workers and progressives turned out and demonstrated on the streets of Auckland.

Meanwhile, in the meat industry, over 700 meat workers at the Talleys-owned AFFCO plants in Horotiu, Feilding, Whanganui, Moerewai and Wairoa were locked out, with their remaining union workmates walking out in solidarity. Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly told the Manawatu Standard that the port and meatworks were some of New Zealand’s most profitable businesses:

They are all trying to screw down the cost of labour in their workforce. The meatworks and the port are right in the centre of the productive sector and [these employers are] using the most vicious employment relations tactics, probably backed by a government which has done nothing but change the law against workers’ interests.

Horotiu site union president Don Arnold told Fairfax reporters that AFCO “want more work for the same money.” Under proposed changes workers would be expected to process more carcasses per hour for the same pay

Strikes have also taken place at 20 Oceania Group-owned rest homes. Aged care workers represented by the Service and Food Workers Union and the Nurses Organisation currently earn between $13.60 and $16.22 an hour. They are taking action for a 3.5% pay increase and adequate staffing levels. The employer has offered a 1% pay rise over three years, well below the increasing cost of living.

Workers in these industries have helped set work standards for everyone else for many decades. It is in the interests of all working people to support these workers in their struggles against flexibilisation and casualization.

Video: Save Our Port march

March 10, 2012

Auckland event: Rally to Save Our Port

March 9, 2012

Join us to rally to Save Our Port and stand up for job security for the port workers and their families and for a publically owned sustainable and successful port.

This is an issue for all of us - casualisation is not good for workers or their families. This is a growing story of working in New Zealand - even when workers already offer a lot of flexibility, they are expected to give more, and often to give up any hope of a structured and healthy life.

Support the port workers, meet at Britomart at 4pm, Saturday 10th March. Entertainment and speeches at Teal Park to follow.

Interview with Maritime Union National President Garry Parsloe
Why wharfies are striking - in their own words


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