Refugees

After the Attack: Building a Lasting Movement Against Racism

After the Attack: Building a Lasting Movement Against Racism

The morning of March 15 was incredible. Thousands of young people were on strike from school, marching in the streets of Aotearoa, demanding action on climate change; demanding a better future. For many of them, it was their first ever experience of politics, and their first ever feeling of people power.

Then the news started coming in. 51 people murdered in Christchurch. Two mosques attacked. I’ve never before felt such a dizzying change in emotions: from extreme optimism, to shock, horror, rage. A lot of people believed that “this could never happen here”. But it has.

Over the last year, the anti-racist left have been increasingly alarmed about the rise of a small but militant far-right in this country. We’ve been holding counter-protests against rallies which have been opposing a non-binding UN treaty on migration and supporting British Nazi Tommy Robinson. Even so, Friday 15 was beyond our worst fears. “Here’s your UN Migration Pact!” was written on the killer’s gun.

People are also responding to the attacks by saying that we shouldn’t give the killer’s ideas any attention. But this is not just an isolated incident. It’s a politically motivated hate crime. We must name the ideology behind the terror. Fascism.

Anti-racist organisers were worried that racist violence could happen here, precisely because we know that fascism is the most dangerous ideology in the world; because the conditions which cause fascism to rise are here today. We know from the history of Europe that the only way to stop fascism is to name it, and to organise people to fight against it. Ignoring fascism only ever lets it spread.

Fascism is weaponised despair, which emerges in times of capitalist crisis. Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci, who spent the last years of his life in a fascist jail, described its roots in his Prison Notebooks, saying:

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

The fascist movement comes from people who witness society falling apart, see no hope for the future, and rather than blaming the top 1% who control society, they find scapegoats: migrants, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBT people, trade unionists, socialists, and in particular, Jews and Muslims. Fascism seeks to abolish democracy; to destroy all unions and left-wing parties; and to establish an ethnically, culturally and religiously “pure” corporate dictatorship.

The only way in which they are correct is this: society is in a profound state of crisis. Wages in Aotearoa have been stagnant since the 90s. We have the worst housing crisis in the OECD, with 40,000 people homeless. 700,000 people live in poverty, including 220,000 children. Mental health problems are rampant. Meanwhile, the richest million Kiwis own nearly 3x the wealth of the other 4 million of us combined.

Of course, Muslims, migrants, LGBT and the left are not to blame. The real culprits are the wealthy and powerful — the bosses and landlords who have rigged the economy in their own interests, and the politicians who have helped them. Political fault lies with both Labour and National, who took turns rigging the system in the 1980s and 1990s, and who have over several decades failed completely to fix the system.

A hero of mine used to say:

“Progress has been made by two flames which have always been burning in the human heart. The flame of anger against injustice; and the flame of hope that we can build a better world.”

Tony Benn

We need to fan the flame of hope to succeed in this struggle. We have to destroy fascism and dismantle capitalism; but we also need to know what we’re fighting for. We need a real alternative: jobs and houses for all; a pay rise for all workers; the end of poverty; a refugee quota of 10,000 a year. That is the response we need to this hateful attack.

So how do we fight for a positive alternative? Those at the top of society will not do it for us. The answer is the people.

Hope in this time of darkness is hard to feel — but there is still immense cause for it. There have been huge displays of aroha in the past week. On the beautiful morning of Friday 15, tens of thousands of school children marched for a better world, and discovered their own power for the first time. Something special happened that morning, which through all our other emotions of shock and grief must not be forgotten.

When workers and students unite, regardless of race or religion, to fight for a better society, we can never be defeated. Let that be the ultimate lesson of March 15. When we stand together to challenge racism and all other forms of injustice, there is nothing we cannot accomplish. While fascism represents the worst kind of hopelessness, a mass movement against hatred and for a fairer system has the potential to show everybody that there is actually hope for the future after all.

4,000 people marched against racism, Islamophobia and fascism in Auckland on 24 March 2019. Photo by Bruce Crossan.



This article has been republished. You can read the original here.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist.

24 March, 2019

Posted by Elliot Crossan in New Zealand politics, 0 comments
We Must Not Stop Challenging Power — Our Fight Has Barely Begun

We Must Not Stop Challenging Power — Our Fight Has Barely Begun

The Green Party exists to challenge power.  Our Charter principles are impossible to implement without a sustained assault on wealthy interests.  We must defy every premise of the capitalist system whose existence relies on colonisation, unlimited material growth, fossil fuel extraction, and the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.

The government has just changed to a supposedly friendly, socially-conscious Labour administration, and the Greens have a Confidence and Supply deal and Ministers for the first time. But I worry that any arguments for structural change in Aotearoa that our Party has been (or should be) making will be suppressed in favour of acting to prop up the new face of the status quo.  This instinct, if followed, will lead to the dying away of the Greens as a genuine alternative — a catastrophe for any hope of real action in the coming years on any of the issues and values we care about.

We may have portfolios and a deal with the Labour Government, but we must not for one second make the mistake of believing that the Greens have power.  We are exactly where the Labour Party wants us to be — small, weak, unable to seriously challenge them, and unable to position ourselves clearly as a more progressive alternative to them.  We have only what power the Prime Minister and Finance Minister will allow us to exercise — able to make minor tweaks in the areas we have been given control over, but no ability to do anything at all that would threaten the capitalist, extractivist system that is harming people and planet.

Just look at what isn’t in our deal with Labour.  There is no mandatory Te Reo in schools, no carbon tax, no capital gains tax, no higher taxes on the rich at all, and no increase in core benefits, or systemic changes to the culture of WINZ and its sanctioning regime.  This constitutes a frail imitation of basic and vitally necessary changes to New Zealand’s benefit system — changes so bravely championed by Metiria.  There is not even a guarantee that there will be an end to new mining, fracking, or deep sea oil and gas drilling projects.  Fairly moderate policies that would have seen a more just and sustainable society were taken off the table by Labour before the Government had even begun.  Fossil fuel extraction will continue, everyday colonisation will go on as before, and the particularly savage model of capitalism we live under — neoliberalism, with the vast level of inequality it creates — will continue entirely unchanged.

When it comes to immigration, Labour and New Zealand First intend to be xenophobic and nasty.  Labour decided during its third term in opposition that trying to campaign in even a moderately social democratic way is too hard, and that it would make migrants the scapegoats for social problems instead.  Underfunded public services and infrastructure are the result of austerity, not migrants.  Low wages are the result of union busting and a low minimum wage, not migrants.  Inequality is the result of neoliberalism, not migrants.  In challenging power, it cannot be more crucial for the Greens to stand up to the xenophobic and factually untrue narrative that any of our problems are either caused or exacerbated by our already fairly restrictive immigration system.  We cannot call ourselves a party that believes in social responsibility unless we stand up to the xenophobia of this Government and say loudly and clearly that migrants and refugees are welcome here.

Over the next three years, in the next election and beyond, we need not only to continue challenging power as much as we can despite our compromised position, but we need to rethink the current direction of the Green Party and begin to fight a more bold, coherent and all-encompassing battle for the soul of Aotearoa.  We fought this election on a platform of fairly limited changes — our fiscal policy was restricted by the neoliberal straightjacket of the Budget Responsibility Rules, and we were not advocating truly systemic changes to the economy.  A bigger government will be necessary to urgently tackle climate change and inequality, and to grant serious reparations for colonisation.  Next election, we need to campaign on a platform of raising taxes on the rich in order to pay for bringing the essentials of life back under public, democratic control, spending more on services to benefit everybody, and implementing a Green New Deal that will shift New Zealand towards becoming a carbon neutral economy, fast.

A better world is possible — not with the current government, but with a new, radical vision for the future of Aotearoa.



This article was originally written on behalf of the Young Greens of Aotearoa New Zealand and published in issue 56 of Te Awa, the Green Party magazine. It has been republished with the kind permission of the editor.

Elliot Crossan is a socialist writer and activist. At time of writing, he was Co-Convenor of the Young Greens.

5 December, 2017

Posted by Elliot Crossan in 2017 New Zealand general election, Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, New Zealand Labour Party, New Zealand politics, 0 comments