Sunday 29 January 2012

Resolution of 2012 conference of Socialist Worker

The defining event of our times is world capitalism’s historic slide towards collapse under the chaotic, intersecting and escalating pressures of five terminal crises:

• profitability,
• ecology,
• resources,
• imperial leadership,
• legitimacy.

This is the context for this resolution of Socialist Worker’s 2012 conference:

1. Push forward focused outreach work on global capitalist collapse, including the formation of a broad left Forum composed of people who see system collapse looming, leaving room for a range of views on how that might express itself.

2. Help consolidate an eco-socialist network open to a variety of issues and campaigns important to the 99%.

3. Wind up Socialist Worker:

• (a) in favour of members getting involved in the above two strands of activity, as well as interfacing with other leftists in unions, campaigns, iwi, Labour, Greens, Mana, Maori Party and so on,

• (b) with all members encouraged to financially support either or both the capitalist collapse Forum and the eco-socialist network.

4. The Socialist Centre in Onehunga, Auckland to be renamed the eco-socialist centre, which will:

• (a) host the capitalist collapse Forum and the eco-socialist network, and

• (b) house a good portion of the books of the Red Kiwi Library for the use of the capitalist collapse Forum and the eco-socialist network, and

• (c) require funding from friends of the eco-socialist centre to maintain this important resource of the left.

Co-moved by Grant Brookes, David C and Grant Morgan.
Passed with 2 abstentions.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Will your savings be frozen?

E S S A Y   I N T R O D U C T I O N

The essay below deals with important topics:
  • The New Zealand state is installing networked computer systems to instantly freeze bank savings if any bank gets into trouble. The systems will be up and running by the end of 2012.
  • There is a rising risk of problems with New Zealand banks. Their main asset base consists of household mortgages, and many highly indebted homeowners could be tipped into default by even a moderate economic downturn.
  • China is suddenly experiencing a plunge in the housing and financial sectors, which is certain to hurt Australia. Since these two countries are key trading partners of New Zealand, this country’s economy will get a double hit.
  • The world economy has been totally colonised by Big Money. Global financial activities last year were 22 times greater in dollar value than world GDP, a measure of the “real” economy. In effect, the planet’s 99% are being held hostage to a global Ponzi bubble, which will burst unless the people accept increased austerity.
  • The inevitability of a bursting of the global Ponzi bubble intersects with world capitalism's four other existential crises: ecology, resources, imperial leadership and legitimacy. Together, these crises are shoving world capitalism towards collapse.
  • It’s essential for leftists of all shades to come together and forewarn the people about capitalism’s slide towards collapse. A people forewarned is a people prepared and mobilised to overcome the disasters that a collapsing system will bring.
  • To this end, a proposal is being made to establish an inclusive membership organisation of collapse educators. Its working title is Forum on Capitalist Collapse, although that name may change as other leftists express their opinions. All leftists in New Zealand, and globally, are invited to respond and participate.
Thank you.

Grant Morgan
Auckland, New Zealand

Will your savings be frozen?

With the global financial system nearing breakdown, the New Zealand state is preparing to freeze our bank deposits. Meanwhile world capitalism’s ecology, resources, leadership and legitimacy are withering away. Welcome to the new era of capitalist collapse. How can the 99% turn certain chaos into promising prognosis?

by Grant Morgan
18 January 2012

If you have a bank account in New Zealand, watch out! Your savings will soon be at risk of expropriation by the capitalist state in the shape of the Minister of Finance and the Reserve Bank.

Any time your bank gets into financial strife, a state-actioned computer keystroke will soon be able to freeze a portion of your savings, perhaps forever. How big a portion? That depends entirely on the size of your bank’s loss. Theoretically, close to 100 percent of your savings could be swallowed up, although the Reserve Bank likes to pluck a much lower example out of thin air. And how many “mum and dad” depositors know about this risk? Probably close to zero percent.

Since March 2011, with backing from National’s finance minister Bill English, the Reserve Bank has been working quietly with banks in New Zealand to “pre-position” retail accounts (overwhelmingly opened by grassroots depositors) so part of their funds can be frozen in a second to offset bank losses.

To make out that nothing really new is happening, English says the “option” of freezing bank deposits has been “available to the Reserve Bank for a number of years”. But this “truth” hides a bigger lie. Up till now, the Reserve Bank has lacked the technical means to put this option into operation.

That technical blockage is, however, being rapidly overcome by the installation of networked computer systems. “By the end of 2012”, predicts the Reserve Bank, the “systems” will be in place for “full implementation” of the deposit freeze plan. From that point onwards, the Reserve Bank will be able to “recommend” to the Minister of Finance that any troubled bank(s) be put under state control and a portion of deposits frozen. Only a brave minister would refuse such a “recommendation” from New Zealand’s banking gurus to authorise Open Bank Resolution.

Open Bank Resolution? Yes, that’s the friendly-sounding name the state mandarins have coined for the legal looting of our savings.....


Monday 16 January 2012

Towards Ecosocialism

by Grant Brookes

[A contribution to Socialist Worker's Pre-Conference Bulletin, January 2012]


“The method of rising from the abstract to the concrete is only the way in which thought appropriates the concrete, reproduces it as the concrete in the mind.” So said Marx, in the Grundrisse of 1859.

Some sixty years later, Lukacs expanded upon this dialectical theme, of the relationship between the abstract whole and concrete parts: “Dialectics insists on the concrete unity of the whole…

“Only in this context which sees the isolated facts of social life as aspects of the historical process and integrates them in a totality, can knowledge of the facts hope to become knowledge of reality...

“All the isolated partial categories… can really only be discerned in the context of the total historical process of their relation to society as a whole...

“Thus dialectical materialism is seen to offer the only approach to reality which can give action a direction... The facts no longer appear strange when they are comprehended in their coherent reality, in the relation of all partial aspects to their inherent, but hitherto unelucidated roots in the whole: we then perceive the tendencies which strive towards the centre of reality, to what we are wont to call the ultimate goal... Because of this, to comprehend it is to recognise the direction taken (unconsciously) by events and tendencies towards the totality. It is to know the direction that determines concretely the correct course of action at any given moment.”

This is why discussion at Socialist Worker national conferences begins by considering the abstract totality, the global system as a whole.

But as events in Christchurch have reminded us, the historical movement of massive systems can be seen in isolated events at specific points along a fault line.

What specific events, on systemic fault lines, are currently revealing the movement of world history as a whole?

- 2011 was the warmest La Niña year since records began in 1850. The volume of Arctic sea ice is the lowest ever recorded.
- Oil prices remained over US$100 a barrel, despite decline at the heart of the world economy.
- The World Bank said that global inequality has reached its greatest level in human history.
- The US withdrew its last combat units from Iraq.
- Iran’s nuclear facilities came under a series of “black ops” attacks.
- NATO bombs finished Gaddafi, but could not produce a stable pro-Western Libya.
- The White House approved Taleban plans to open a diplomatic post in Qatar, paving the way for a negotiated retreat from the Afghan quagmire.
- Speculation mounted about the future integrity of a 28-member European Union.
- China launched its first aircraft carrier, while the US announced that marines are to be sent to Northern Australia.
- The inaugural summit of the 33-nation CELAC regional bloc was held in Caracas.
- Greens secured gains in some Western nations, but faith in established parties from Labour or social democratic traditions continued to ebb as they clung to neoliberalism.
- The historic erosion of Western democratic institutions continued.
- Riots swept England.
- Time magazine named their “person of the year” as “The Protester”.
- In the wake of the 2008 “kitchenware revolution”, Iceland voted to default on a € 4bn debt and an elected Assembly of citizens drafted a new Constitution.

A new kind of paper (and a new kind of organisation?)

by David Colyer

[A contribution to Socialist Worker's Pre-Conference Bulletin, January 2012]

Socialist Worker members have been advocating an Eco-Socialist Network for some time. Recently a network promoting the capitalistcollapse analysis has also been proposed. I support both networks, but I think there remains a need for a distinct revolutionary socialist / marxist voice.

A ‘collapse’ network would not be exclusively socialist, it should involve all those who recognise the looming reality of collapse. Likewise, the Eco-Socialist Network should be as broad as possible, including those unconvinced that capitalism will collapse. The broadness of these networks will be one of their great attractions.

Effectively promoting both the likelihood of capitalist collapse and an eco-socialist response, and relating this to current events and day to day struggles, will likely require a higher level of political agreement and organisation than broad networks will initially have.

What kind of organisation?

While most Socialist Worker members appear to agree that the ‘Leninist’ model is no longer the way to go, a central feature of that tradition – organising around a publication – remains useful.

Beyond this, a new socialist grouping would recognise that its members will be involved in a range of campaigns, parties and other organisations as individuals (not representatives of the group). It would not seek to be the main organiser of member’s activism.

The demands on members would therefore be comparatively low: agreement with a statement of aims or principles, and the commitment of a little time and/or money for the production and distribution of the publication.

With other socialist groups also reassessing the way they organise, such a loose form of organisation could open space for future cooperation or regroupment.

First steps: a new publication

A publication freely distributed online and in printed form could be the first step towards a new socialist grouping.

I envision it made up of short articles, in sections less than 1000 characters (Facebook update length), which could be posted on the internet as they are written, then each month (or week) laid-up on an A4 or A3 page for distribution as emailed pdf and printed leaflet.

Reporting on campaigns, protests, industrial action, the publication would build practical solidarity with struggles, while linking together the people waging them, fostering a sense of common cause across many diverse areas of resistance.

Locating struggles within a wider context, it would encourage an understanding of how day to problems relate to capitalism’s crisis, and an eco-socialist response.

Finally, it would unite eco-socialist activists in the collective work of promoting their shared ideas to a wider audience.

Goodbye Lenin?

by Daphne Lawless

[A contribution to Socialist Worker's Pre-Conference Bulletin, January 2012]

“... we are each given the experiences we need and I do not regret the craziness of those initial years, even though I know now that much of my energy and actions was misplaced.”

- Llewellyn Vaughan Lee

This paper is an exploration of ten years experience as a member of a revolutionary socialist organisation, and a question about what happens next.

Since 2005 at least I have been attempting to reconcile the Leninist political tradition I was trained in with my personal experience of alienation and oppression (as a queer woman with extensive academic training, a medium-sized income in the publishing field and a long-undiagnosed cognitive abnormality) ; with my humanities training with its insight into mass psychology, ideology and “memetics”; and with my own, highly idiosyncratic vision of what a world which worked properly for human beings would be like. And this is where I have come to, so far.

The political is personal...

I have often talked to people about why I cannot simply do the kinds of things that I could do in my first years as a political activist. I used to be able to sell a socialist newspaper to my workmates, or at least try to; man a political stall and hold discussions with passers-by; participate in demonstrations; even recruit to the organisation. I castigated myself for a long time, blaming myself for “cowardice”, “lack of will”, etc. Any Marxist or feminist would recognize the effects of internalised oppression if this were in the capitalist workplace; it seems very wrong that we tend to resort to blaming of individuals for feelings that arise from our own movement.

But finally, and most simply, the thought struck me: I no longer believe. I no longer see, in other words, the essential relationship between these kinds of actions and bringing about the kind of social revolution that we need to preserve human civilisation and the integrity of the biosphere.

And let me be more precise. I still believe in “revolutionary politics”. Marxian political economy still seems to me to be the only intelligent way to describe the off-the-cliff trajectory of today's financial capitalism, and the effects of alienated labour and oppression on the collective social and mental health of working people are clearly obvious. It's also clearly obvious that the only way out is a social revolution which expropriates the ruling classes and their media/ideological enablers and puts real decision-making power and cultural capital into the hands of the working masses.

Monday 5 December 2011

Summit in Venezuela opens 'new phase in history'

by Federico Fuentes
3 December 2011
from Green Left Weekly

A summit of huge importance was held in Venezuela on December 2-3. Two hundred years after Latin America’s independence fighters first raised the battle cry for a united Latin America, 33 heads of states from across the region came together to form the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

For Latin America, the summit represented a further step away from its traditional role as the United States’ backyard and its emergence as a player in its own right in international politics.

The importance of this new institution in world politics cannot be overstated. The combined gross domestic product of the countries within CELAC make it the third-largest economic powerhouse in the world.

It is also home to the world’s largest oil reserves and the first and third largest global producers of food and energy, respectively.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Labour "will contemplate" a Financial Transactions Tax

by Grant Brookes

In the wake of the Mana Party announcement of its Hone Heke Tax proposal back in June, Labour's finance spokesperson David Cunliffe was moved to write a few words on why he opposed the idea (see:

But support for a FTT inside Labour and union circles has continued to grow, including among leaders of the NZ Nurses Organisation.

On 16 November, the Greater Wellington Regional Council of NZNO hosted a candidates forum. It was attended by the Green Party candidate for Rimutaka, Tane Woodley, and Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard. (The Mana Party candidate for Te Tai Tonga, Clinton Dearlove, had also accepted the invitation, but was unfortunately sick in bed that night).

NZNO president Nano Tunnicliff was at the forum, and she asked Mallard about Labour's current views on a Financial Transactions Tax:

"So if we're looking to a sustainable future, and there are questions about whether there is enough funding for a lot of Labour's policies, surely there have to be other methods of funding – perhaps looking at Financial Transactions Taxes, which are across the board. It's a fair way of having income to fund social services."

Mallard's response shows that there is now support for the idea among Labour's front bench:

"The question of the Transactions Tax is one which we will contemplate. There's actually some quite interesting OECD and International Monetary Fund work going on on that now. It looks like it could be a goer internationally. And if we have some precedents and either do it with other people, or follow slightly behind other people, then we will certainly contemplate it."

This underscores the need – and viability – of the call from the Tax Justice Campaign (“left-parties-should-come-together-on-tax-policy”-says-tax-justice/) for a broader Tax Justice Coalition. We need to bring together left parties inside and outside of Parliament, along with unions and other grassroots organisations, to keep pushing the policy in 2012.

Friday 11 November 2011

Epsom debate: Banks attacks Brash

John Key has claimed that ACT is a “stable party”. But a picture paints a thousand words. Three photos from the Epsom meet the candidates debate.

1/ MANA candidate Pat O’Dea shows the people of Epsom who they are really voting for.

2/ Before leaving the stand O’Dea leaves Brash’s picture propped against the lectern. The MANA and the Greens Candidate look on grimly as Banks lays out ACT’s right wing agenda. (National’s Paul Goldsmith can be seen peering around the lectern, behind Banks, Labour candidate David Parker reclines looking relaxed with Banks’ comments)


3/ Hell breaks loose! Labour's David Parker looks on amazed, as Tim Watkin pushed aside in Banks’ frenzied rush on the sign, tries to recover his balance. Behind them John Banks is frustratedly attempting to tear up his leaders image.

Fortunately, the Don Brash picture had been laminated against such attacks.
But who knew John Banks would be the one to try?

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Amid war threats, December’s Gaza convoy is postponed

by Grant Morgan
co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza
4 November 2011
UK charity Viva Palestina, lead organiser of an international aid mission to besieged Gaza in late December, today announced the convoy’s postponement for several months.
Hundreds of convoyers from around the world were scheduled to gather in Cairo next month, link up with the huge democracy movement which overthrew the dictator Hosni Mubarak, then drive their aid vehicles through Egypt’s Rafah crossing into Gaza.
Six weeks ago, Kia Ora Gaza selected a four-person Kiwi Team to join Viva Palestina’s land convoy: Roger Fowler, Gibran Janif and Hone Fowler from Auckland and Tali Williams from Wellington. (See the sidebar of kiaoragaza.netfor their photos and biographies.)
A central aim of the convoy was to get international convoyers and Egyptian democrats joining forces for a permanent opening of the Rafah gateway to Gaza. That would start to collapse Israel’s blockade of the tiny Mediterranean enclave where 1.5 million Palestinians are illegally imprisoned.
But now the timeline has been set back by circumstances. Viva Palestina explains:

The first democratic elections since the fall of Mubarak are due to take place on 28th November. In addition to the uncertainties raised by the election campaign and outcome in Egypt, Israel is now clearly preparing major military operations against Gaza and may launch an attack on Iran in the next few days and weeks. In this context, we have decided to postpone the VP6 convoy until the situation has become clearer. We still intend to take a convoy in as soon as possible, which we now believe will be at some point in the first three months of the New Year.”
Over recent days, the Israeli media has been filled with reports about prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence and foreign ministers pushing for a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and a collateral assault on Gaza.
UK newspaper The Guardian revealed that America and Britain are also planning missile strikes on Iran, while Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak told Washington that if the US doesn’t bomb Iran, Israel will.
Yesterday, US president Barack Obama said America and its allies would exert “unprecedented pressure” on Tehran to keep Iran from making a nuclear weapon.
Yet an authoritative report published Monday by the British American Security Information Council points to nuclear weapons proliferation by Washington and Tel Aviv. The US is spending ten times more than any other power on upgrading and expanding its nuclear arsenal. And Israel, which refuses to sign the International Non-Proliferation Treaty, is extending the range of its nuclear missiles and expanding its nuclear missile submarine fleet.
The Israeli air force announced on Wednesday the completion of weeklong exercises with Italy’s military, testing operational capabilities in conditions that don’t exist in Israel. In other words, wargaming against Iran.
On Tuesday, Israel’s vice-premier, Silvan Shalom, warned that Tel Aviv is nearing a “dramatic decision” that would put an end to rocket fire from Gaza. Of course, Shalom made no mention of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, nor the preceding six decades of Zionist armed occupation of Palestinian lands, inevitable breeding grounds of resistance by the dispossessed.
A day earlier, Netanyahu had told parliament that Israel “cannot rely on defence alone”, but must also go onto the “offensive”. Within hours, the meaning of his words became clear. The Israeli prime minister ordered a speed up in the construction of Jewish-only house construction in Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He also ordered Israel’s military to prepare for a ground offensive in Gaza.
Israeli politicians routinely demonise Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, for being “terrorists”. Yet Tel Aviv is now targeting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, described yesterday by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy as “the most moderate Palestinian leader there will ever be”. Any why? Because Abbas has appealed to the United Nations for recognition of a Palestinian state after nothing came from years of “negotiations” with Israel, labeled by Levy as “the enemy of freedom”.
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, twice this week called for the “removal” of Abbas. His call was condemned by a senior Palestinian official as “a clear threat against [the president’s] life”.
A poll commissioned by Israeli newspaper Haaretz yesterday revealed that 80% of Israel’s citizens believe an attack on Iran would “likely” lead to war with Hamas in Gaza and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
Their belief is shared by Bruce Riedel, former special assistant to the US president, who said Wednesday that “an Israeli attack on Iran could ignite a regional conflict from Afghanistan to the Gaza Strip”.
This fevered atmosphere of military threats by Israel and America against Iran and Gaza constitutes the backdrop to Viva Palestina’s postponement of December’s convoy to Gaza.
Viva Palestina intends to marshall a convoy as soon as possible, which they believe will be during the first quarter of 2012. Kia Ora Gaza remains committed to this convoy, while our four Kiwi volunteers are still keen to go.
Kia Ora Gaza requests all supporters to continue donating towards our $50,000 Gaza Appeal, since this money is needed to fund our Kiwi contribution to the 2012 convoy.
Right now, we are 58% of the way towards the $50,000 target. If the remaining $21,000 is donated by Christmas, then Kia Ora Gaza will be able to move swiftly in 2012 when circumstances favour the convoy.
The executive of Kia Ora Gaza thanks everyone who has contributed to our $50,000 appeal and/or assisted in other ways. Together we are helping to deliver justice for everyone within historic Palestine, and thus building a stronger base for a world where people care for each other.

Friday 4 November 2011

Introducing the Robin Hood Tax – Tax Justice in New Zealand

Notes from a talk at Occupy Wellington on 29 October, 2011, to coincide with the #RobinHood Global March (

by Tax Justice spokesperson & eco-socialist activist GRANT BROOKES

The campaign for a Robin Hood Tax began, a little over 18 months ago, with a little-noticed launch in London. Supporters from a handful of British charities, faith groups and unions projected images onto the Bank of England, in an effort to lobby the British government to introduce a new tax on banks to tackle poverty and climate change. Today, it has become a global movement.

It's easy to see why it has been taken up by large parts of the Occupy Movement, which also began as a small gathering on Wall Street opposing US corporate greed and the role of the top 1% in dictating priorities in Washington, and has now become a global awakening.

What has driven both developments is a realisation that the current world order is failing us -- the 99% around the world -- and that to fix it, we need to change the system. The catch-cries of the last great global uniting -- the anti-capitalist movement which arose after the protests against the World Trade Organisation Summit in Seattle in 1999 -- have returned. "Another world is possible, a better world is possible".

This global vision inspires us, it connects us with people around the world, whose coordinated action and common purpose is essential to make that system change, and create another world.

But we all begin this journey from where we are, in our own countries, our own cities and communities, with our own histories and our own specific obstacles to change.

Friday 28 October 2011

Tax Justice supports ‘Robin Hood Tax’ global day of action

Tax Justice media release
28 October 2011

“The Occupy Movement is protesting the injustice of the world’s 99% having to bear the costs of a financial crisis caused by an elite few,” says Vaughan Gunson, Tax Justice spokesperson.

“The best mechanism for making the super-rich 1% pay is a financial transaction tax, or Robin Hood Tax,” says Gunson. “It’s very exciting to see that the global movement for this tax which targets banks, big corporates and financial speculators is growing.”

The Robin Hood Tax international day of action on Saturday 29 October is timed to put pressure on the leaders of the G20 before their summit meeting in Cannes on 3 November. In New Zealand, actions are being organised in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch.

“Tax Justice has been campaigning over the last year for financial speculation to be taxed. It’s criminal that the profits of speculators go untaxed, while ordinary New Zealanders are taxed every which way,” says Gunson.

The Tax Justice petition signed by 40,000 New Zealanders was presented to Parliament on 16 August. The petition calls for GST to be removed from food and a tax placed on financial speculation instead.

“Politicians in New Zealand need to respond to the global movement and start looking at how we can introduce a Robin Hood Tax in New Zealand,” says Gunson.

Tax Justice would like to see the parties of the left come together on tax policy. “A broad coalition that brings together left parties inside and outside of Parliament, along with unions and other grassroots organisations, could achieve a decisive shift towards a more just fairer tax system,” says Gunson.

“The beauty of financial transaction taxes is that they can target the super-rich who aren’t paying enough tax; it’s almost impossible to avoid; and modern technology makes it a simple and low cost form of tax collection,” says Gunson.

Tax Justice has produced a Fact Sheet on Financial Transactions Taxes and their feasibility for New Zealand. To download PDF click here.

For more information on the Tax Justice campaign go to

Saturday 22 October 2011

Diary of an occupation — 7 days at #occupymelbourne

By Sue Bolton

Occupy Melbourne, City Square, Day 2, October 16. Photo:
Green Left Weekly’s Sue Bolton has been part of the Occupy Melbourne protest since it began on October 15. Below she recounts the past week of the occupation in Melbourne’s City Square, which was broken up by a fierce police assault on October 21.

Day 5: Still going strong
We are still going strong with about 45 to 50 tents in City Square. I estimate there are about 100 people camping each night with many others staying until late in the night.

The occupation has been set up as a well-established occupation with a 24-hour roster for the info desk and the kitchen. The kitchen is feeding homeless people who also use the square.

The first general assembly passed a motion to welcome the homeless people who use the square. The kitchen has dispensed with meal rosters and is cooking 24-hours a day.

Now a People’s Cinema is being set up and there’s even a People's Library and a Free Clothes Store.

The first general assembly voted that it be a child-friendly space and there are families with children who are occupying.

Throughout each day, numerous people drop in to find out what the occupation is all about. There’s a lot of curiosity but also public support.

The slogan of the campaign, that “We are the 99% against the 1%” is very political, so most people coming to the occupation to browse around the stalls are wanting to have big discussions about the future of society.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Occupy Wellington: A focus for the 99%

By Grant Brookes

“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?”
Naomi Klein   

With comments like this, campaigning journalist Naomi Klein has captured the essence of the mushrooming movement against corporate greed which began on Wall Street (

The movement is expressing the feelings of a global majority denied a voice in the media and in the corridors of power.

It spread to Aotearoa on October 15, when occupations began in Auckland, Wellington, Christchuch, Dunedin, New Plymouth and elsewhere.

I’ve been to a lot of protests for good causes”, said Dougal, on Day One of the Wellington Occupation. “But it’s often felt like I was part of an embattled minority. This is different”.

With their broad embrace of a myriad of issues, and organising democratically through general assemblies, the occupations around New Zealand have attracted supporters from all walks of life – even as they confound newshounds looking for figureheads, spokespeople and official media releases. 
Occupy Wellington Circle

Around 300 people marched on the NZX Stock Exchange building on Wellington’s waterfront on Saturday. The protest ended with an open microphone, where people got up and talked about why they had come.

An early childhood teacher spoke of how she suddenly found herself in poverty after being made redundant (!), following the National government’s decision to cut $400 million from early childhood education.

An IT consultant talked about how he and his partner have been earning up to $200,000 a year, but still can’t get ahead. He wondered aloud how those on the minimum wage could get by.

A beneficiary spoke of being unable to get a job, despite her university qualifications. “I can't even get a fucking job as a taxi driver”, she said. “I want a fucking revolution!” (

Celia Wade Brown
Then on Sunday, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown visited the occupation and expressed support.

The occupation has been gifted a whakatauki by local Maori, to express our acknowledgement of tangata whenua as the original occupiers of the land: “Me noho tahi, tena pea ka tika” (‎'Come sit together, and everything will come right').

With backing from such a cross-section of society, we truly are representative of the 99%.

The occupations have shown the ability of people to come together and create cooperative communities. In Wellington, general assemblies are meeting daily at 10am and 6pm, with a different person facilitating each time. Notes from each assembly are being posted at:

A group has been formed to organise food and other supplies to sustain the occupation. A communications and media team has been set up (individuals have produced articles like, 'Multimedia: Occupy Wellington Sets Up Camp In Civic Square' and 'Occupy Aotearoa: A brief summary' A first aid team is forming, along with a roster of people to show hospitality to newcomers, rules for noise control, and a programme of educational workshops and entertainment.

And as we come together, we have also begun to grapple with what exactly is wrong with the world ruled by, and for, the 1% - and to talk about how we can change it, so it works for everyone.

UNITYblog spoke with people occupying Civic Square in Wellington about why they were there, and what they though could be achieved by the occupation.

Nati is from Spain. She followed the wave of occupations of public spaces which began in Spanish cities in May, by the movement known as “The Indignants” (

I came down here to support the movements around the worldpeople that are fed up with everything, basically. I think there are a lot of people who don’t really know why they’re here, but they know that something is wrong and they want to change it.

There are tons of things we can mention – the economic system, the way the world moves, the pyramidal structure that we have. We know that there are thousands of things wrong, so it’s more about coming together to develop a proposal.

We need to focus on solidarity with others, on humanity, going back to the basic needs and basic values that are completely forgotten in our society, like helping each other. And solidarity with the planet, ecological resources. It’s probably going to take years.

But it's good to stand and say, I know that there are things that are wrong, to just stand and say I am seeing this, I'm not blind. I'm coming here to stand in front of others and say, hey, look at this, let's try to change it.

We can think about the power being held by governments, or by corporations as it is now, but the power is from the people, at the beginning. We are the consumers, and we are the workers. So we have the power. We are making the rules here.”

Sarah is a nurse and midwife.

I think the occupation is about raising awareness of the current problems in the world. We can wake a lot more ordinary people up, and get people to actually look at the system that's facing them, and start to think about that more deeply, and about ways in which we can effect change.

And particularly, we're coming up to an election. We've got such a great divide in NZ between the rich and poor. And we know that the bigger the gap between rich and poor, the poorer the society is. There's a lot more crime, and violence, we need to find a way to merge that. There are new political parties springing up, so that's a potential way forward.

There are those who would argue we need to completely collapse the system, and move onto something entirely different, such as a resource-based economy ( The fact is we're all one humanity living on one planet with finite resources. So that's another way.

Some people are arguing we should go back to the gold standard ( So there's lots of ideas, and the more people are involved, the more that evolution can take place. Ideas can join in the giant soup of creation, and come up with something new.”

Monday 17 October 2011

The Occupations: This time it's different

by Joel Hildebrandt

If you know me, you know I’ve been on many, many marches. Let’s be honest – it gets a little boring. You march & yell and sing and chat with fellow protesters on the street. You arrive at your destination and some designated speakers take the mike and – well, it's boring. People & energy fizzle away. And then what?

Yesterday at Aotea Square in the centre of Auckland was different. Way different. Sure, we marched and shouted and showed off for the media and got to the Square and someone took the mike and they said... Welcome to your occupation. From now on you are in control. We will decide everything together.

They passed out a brochure on consensus with hand signals and what they mean: agree, disagree (but not that strongly), disagree enough to block consensus, process concern. Hey, I live in cohousing, we know what those signals mean! Green card yes, orange card not so much, red card no way... I was in the middle of a People’s General Assembly, and something inside me came back to life. Every proposal that the organizers had come up with was approved, via hand signals, by the Assembly. A different person was coordinating each Working Group, and participants were invited to join the Groups: food, medical, legal, town planning, media, etc. Proposals were requested from the Assembly. Where the tents would be set up, approved by the Assembly. I mean, it’s one thing to use consensus in an intentional community of 32 households. Seeing it work so effectively among a group of strangers is really inspiring! Support for Occupy Wall Street, unanimous consent.

Voting at the Auckland General Assembly

If you haven’t been down there, to Queen Street or Wall Street or Sol or wherever, you have to live it to believe it. Naomi Klein says this is “The most important thing in the world right now”. I agree. Here’s why:

#It’s leaderless. No one is in charge, and everyone is. In some cases (Madrid, Barcelona...) this means hundreds of thousands of people are making decisions by consensus.

#It’s inclusive. Everyone is welcome. Everyone can have a say. And unlike so many movements, it is not divisive.

#It is democratic. All decisions are made by everyone.

#It is sustained. It does not fizzle after a couple of hours; it stays there in Zucotti Park, or La Puerta del Sol, or wherever, day after day.

#It is peaceful. The protesters do not break windows, or attack police, or even yell obscenities. They are letting the cops be the violent ones, which garners them support and publicity.

#It models the change that is needed. By being all those things, it shows that people can run things democratically, inclusively, peacefully, and successfully – even in really large numbers.

The media don’t know how to cover this. They keep looking for leaders, and a single cause or demand, and when they don't find them they tell us we are disorganized. But that’s because they don’t get it. It’s not what they’ve seen before and know how to sell – it’s different!

I was even skeptical, until I saw it in action. If you can’t do that, check out this inspiring video from NYC (shot in Washington Square Park): – using consensus at NY General Assembly.

If you want to see how big this is globally, have a look at 120 different occupations are listed around the world; you can peek into any one of them. And that’s nowhere near all of them; Auckland (for instance) is not up there yet. You can check out #Occupy Auckland photos at:

Can we change the world this way? Time will tell. Many of us hope so, for the world cannot go on as it is now. Can the necessary changes be made some other way? I don’t see that happening anywhere, and that is exactly the point. The politicians are busy bailing out the huge corporations while they shove austerity down our throats. I don’t think anyone else has the will or the means to stop it, turn it around. It’s up to us.

Democracia real ya! – Real democracy now!

Sunday 16 October 2011

Occupy Auckland day 1

By David

We are the 99%, we are the 99%...’
 ‘And so are you!’ someone added, calling out to the many on-lookers.
 ‘Join us,’ others called, and people did.
Two French rugby supporters clapped their hands in approval. ‘We have the same problem in France’ they said. They too were the 99%.

There were many veteran protests of course (some perhaps wearing their ‘Returned Protester Association badges that were handed out at the recent celebrations of the 30th Anniversary of the Springbok Tour), as well as those drawn in via recently emerged movements like the student protests at Auckland University or the Mana party. There were those who had protested before (but not for a while) and many who were taking to the streets for the first time. 

All inspired by Occupy Wall Street, a protest that was more than just marching from A to B, the idea of being part of a global movement, the start of something new.

What are the issues?

The policy of not having a list of demands has infuriated many critics and more that a few supporters of the movement. But it seems to have worked.

Importantly, it has allowed groups and individuals to bring their own concerns, and I’m sure it will encourage people to think about how these diverse issues are linked to corporate domination. Many would agree with the sentiments of the Aucklander whose placard said ‘I’m here for so many reasons’.

Some of the reasons expressed in the placards and banners and Facebook comments:

* The wealth gap between the rich and the rest, growing ever wider as real wages stagnate or fall, while productivity and profits soar.

* The slow response and lack of preparation to the Rena oil spill, which was the long predicted consequence of the deregulation of the shipping industry.

* Unemployment, scapegoating of beneficences and the lack of opportunity even for skilled and educated.

* The expansion of coal mining and oil drilling, which threatens more oil spills, when accelerating climate change means we should be moving away from fossil fuel extraction and cutting CO2 emissions.

* The failure of the Crown to honour the Treaty’s commitment to tino rangatiratanga, leaving Maori dispossessed in their own land.

* And, last but not least, capitalism, corporate control and the corruption of democracy by the rich elite.


Despite the general assumption that the mainstream media would either not cover the protests or simply dismiss them, some of the coverage, particularly on the TV3 and NZ Herald websites has generally been good. Stuff (Dominion, Press etc) on the other hand has been poor, claiming splits and disorganisation in the Wellington movement and posting a rambling, poorly edited amalgam of local and international coverage focusing on a movie star’s alleged attendance at the Auckland protest.

Earlier in the day the Herald suggested that 2000 people were planning to attend the Auckland event, taking the number ‘attending’ on the Facebook event page literally. This is usually not a good idea. On the train into town a friend speculated that this was a deliberate ploy by the Herald to discredit the movement when far fewer turned out. I just assumed the reporter had never organised an event with Facebook before.

So what were we hoping for? As one even organiser put it, ‘the rule is usually divide by three and subtract 100’. That’s about 560 people. In the event there were clearly more than this. TV3 said ‘thousands’, and posted a video on their website. I would guess it was a very respectable 1000. The media doesn’t always under-estimate protests, although Christchurch demonstrators are adamant their was well over 100, not the 30 reported on Stuff.

Another questionable TV3 claim was ‘Anti-capitalism protesters have gathered in centres across the country’. This is true in the sense that there were many anti-capitalists activists at each of the protests. 

But it’s also clear and needs to be respected within the movement that many people are not comfortable with that label. Some are at pains to point out that they are against corporatism, not capitalism in general.

It’s important for anti-capitalists to respect that distinction, if the movement is to continue to attract a broad range of people.

At the same, we could point out that the concentration of wealth and power into hands of the 1% and their corporations is the inevitable result of capitalism and has been a central feature of the system for well over 100 years.

Even the highly regulated welfare state capitalism of the 50s, 60s and 70s was dominated by corporate monopolies, even if a powerful (but all too often bureaucratised) union movement ensured workers got a much higher share of the wealth their labour produced.

Workers rights under attack
The differences between then and now, the why and how the percentage of wealth and income going to the 1% has sky-rocketed was bought home in conversations I had with two of the many workers employed in around Queen Street for the duration of the Rugby World Cup.

Street cleaners, security guards, transport guides, and no doubt many more, are working long hours for low pay to make the World Cup a success.

One worker I spoke to had just a two-hour gap between finishing one shift and starting the next.

Another, who was able to join the protest for a few moments before his shift started, told me a co-worker sleeps in his car because there’s no time to go home between finishing one day and starting the next.

In 1987, when the first Rugby World Cup was played in New Zealand, union-negotiated awards would have ensured these workers got paid penal rates (time-and-a-half, double-time or even triple-time) for working on a weekend, working late at night and working more than eight hours in a day. Which might actually make the exhaustion of a double shift worthwhile.

As one cleaner said, ‘the rich get richer...’ And here’s how:

* In the public sector, cutting wages and contracting out helps central and local government to reduce business rates and cut taxes for the wealthy.

* In the private sector lower pay and higher workloads means corporations, like Dutch multinational First Security, gets to keep a far bigger cut of what it gets paid for the work it’s employees carry out.

The Occupy movement is all about not only highlighting injustices like these, but finding ways to do something about it.

At the very least we should invite the RWC workers down to the Aotea Square Occupation for a chance to relax, an opportunity to talk about their situation and maybe a more comfortable place to sleep.

Thursday 13 October 2011

October 15: occupy Aotearoa, occupy everywhere

The Occupy Wall Street protest has inspired plans for more than 1000 similar events in the US and around the World. Many occupations are planned to begin on Saturday October 15. 
In Aotearoa New Zealand, protests and occupations are planned not just in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, but even in New Plymouth and Invercargill!

Targeting Wall Street – the symbolic heart of financial capitalism – the protest has become the centre of attention for all those unhappy that the interests of corporations, not the basic needs of people, dominate society.

A central message of the protest is that no society can be truly democratic when the richest 1% use their wealth and power to control the rest of us.

Their slogan ‘We are the 99%’ sums up the idea that only unity of the majority can change this situation and bring about a real democracy, where everyone participates and every voice is heard and respected.