Antiwar stuff in NZ

Philip Ferguson plf13 at it.canterbury.ac.nz
Sun Sep 23 17:45:18 MDT 2001


I have been away in Wellington for a week, doing some final research (my
thesis has to be finished by Xmas, which is a huge struggle).  Anyway, just
a few things about what's happening in NZ.

Ordinary people here naturally regard the bombings as appalling acts.  But
I think very few people are gung ho for Bush and his plans for a big show
of United States power.

There have already been a number of protests here.  When I was in
Wellington, there was a downtown lunchtime demonstration, called by "two
mothers from Island Bay" (a Wellington suburb).  It was ortganised without
any obvious postering or leafleting, mainly by email I think and it would
probably have got publicity on the radio beforehand.  The front banner said
"reconciliation not retaliation"; it was very much standard peace movement
fare, and there was nothing in the way of anti-imperialist banners etc.
But, *it did mobilise about 1,000 people* - according to the following
day's 'Dominion' (main Wellington paper) which ran it on the front page.
So, that's a pretty good start.  A number of politicians went on it and
Health Minister Annette King spoke at it.  Of course, King will go along
with whatever Helen Clark decides at the end of the day.  (There are no
radical Labour MPs, although a few Alliance MPs will kick up a bit.  One of
the leaders of the Alliance, Matt Robson, who is Minister of Corrections,
is doing a national speaking tour opposed to Bush going for a military
'solution'.)

There has been a rally of a couple hundred in Auckland last week and a few
dozen in Christchurch.  However the first significant Christchurch action
looks like a vigil at the cathedral in the centre of town on Friday.  In
Dunedin, the ISO (which is basically a Dunedin group) seems to be
organising quite heavily on the issue.

Revolution had just started a Mid-East workgroup a week or two before the
attacks, so this workgroup will hopefully be getting its teeth stuck into
building stuff locally in Christchurch and linking up with national
organising.  Plus we have a new issue of 'revoltuion' coming out in the
next week or two, which has been partly reorganised to take account of this
whole new situation.

On my way to the computer lab just now, I saw that in the foyer of the main
library here at canterbury University there is a special noticeboard set
up.  There's a peace petition, which seems to be getting a lot of
signatures, plus people can stick up any short notices.  These are all
handwritten on small bits of paper - several dozen so far.  They are
overwhelmingly against US retribution.  I think there are maybe 2 or 3 that
have a gungho attitude.  For instance, one says if you can't find a needle
in a haystack, then bomb the haystack.

Our government. certainly the Labour majority of it, is tied pretty closely
to the United States.  However, it will be interesting to see what they do.
NZ imperialism has been asserting its own interests a little more
forcefully since the end of the Cold War - eg in Timor, Bougainville,
Tahiti - and the Labour party tends to represent the more independent
aspect of NZ imperialist interests.  So far, prime minister Clark seems to
be standing a little bit back from the Bush show, although Labour usually
swings in behind when push comes to shove.  This could open up some
divisions within the government, because while Alliance leader (and deputy
PM) Jim Anderton is more likely to swing behind Washington with Clark,
there is a small core of Alliance MPs who will probably not follow suit.
Annderton has already had problems with one of the key Alliance MPs, Laila
Harre, who is minister of both Women's Affairs and Youth Affairs, as she
was going on watersiders' picket lines a few months ago.  I met her when I
was in Wellington and having coffee with an old acquaintance who is in the
Alliance.  She's a genuine left social democrat, of the Benn variety, as
are a number of other key people in the Alliance.  So there could be a bit
of a breach in the government - and within the Alliance between Anderton
and the next tier of leaders, especially those who think that it's time to
prepare for a post-Anderton Alliance (Anderton is near retirement).

(For people not familiar with NZ politics, the Alliance is a left-of-Labour
formation which has ten MPs, and is in government with Labour.  Alliance
leader Anderton is an ex-Labour Party president and MP who left Labour in
protest against the new right reforms of the 80s and started a new
movement.)

Philip Ferguson








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