[Canta Reject] Right Wing Resisted

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This article was submitted to Canta shortly after a white-pride counter demonstration largely organized by students. It probably wasn’t published as Canta usually requires articles to be submitted a week in advance – this makes it difficult for students to submit articles covering recent events. The Canta issue the following week was a recipe book – it no doubt aided indebted students in adding 21 ingredients to their shopping list for a single meal, as well as how to spend a sizeable chunk of course related costs on spaghetti bolognese. That said, the issue did reveal all we ‘need’ to know about our exec.

Right Wing Resisted – Perry Hyde

In a scene of almost cinematic symbolism, a brief stammer in the tirade of heated verbal exchange drew ears to softer sound. Beyond the line of precautionary police officers, about halfway between us and them, stood a lone monk-clad man. Although seemingly helpless in his demeanor, he was pouring every inch of his being into his dream-for-peace rendition of Pokarekare ana. It was in this brief moment that I contemplated the significance of such a confrontation. Here we were, students in 21st century Aotearoa, mustered on the rugged streets of post-quake Christchurch, yelling at Nazis.

This last Saturday marked the 5th consecutive year of Right-Wing-Resistance‘s annual White-Pride World-Wide demonstration in Christchurch. In synchrony with similar actions around the world, they marched in protest of ongoing racial injustices such as white oppression, white-culture dilution and white subordination, all of which they actually believe actually exist. The march, under placards such as “Diversity = White-Genocide” and “Anti-Racist = Anti-White” was totally “not racist” and if anything, I was informed, us “anti-whites” were the racist ones. Members dressed appropriately; amongst an acceptable variation of white-pride and “Hitler was right” T-shirts were the prestigious Neo-Nazi security uniforms – ordered on commission from China no doubt. Nothing shows pride in one’s skin colour like defacing it with ink, which probably explained the grotesque bazaar of body-arts – swastikas, heathen heraldry and pissed-looking eagles were a favourite. Yep, these are the kind of people you’d rather cross the street to avoid. They love that. It’s arguably their greatest accomplishment.

 

In collaboration with a number of organizations including Anti-Racist-Action, the Mana Movement, Fightback Aotearoa, International Socialists and UC Marx Soc (the latter few familiar to our opposition as “filthy-red commie-scum”), the people of Christchurch mounted a counter-demonstration. Despite a last-minute change in location from New Brighton to Cathedral Square – evidently an attempt to curb our numbers – we still managed to muster a crowd twice as large. Before long, a diligent row of police separated the two groups, and the atmosphere became considerably more hostile. Verbal abuse hailed from both sides – though unified chants came predominantly from ours. Soon enough, some of our chants began to slip down the slope of political correctness. “Hey, Ho, Racism has got to go!” and “Immigrants are welcome, racists are not!” became “Nazi Scum!” and “You’re a joke!”. Was this really justified? Was it right to fight hate with hate?

 

One particular member certainly did not think so. Dressed half-way between a Zen-monk and a Jedi-knight (which sounds awesome and totally was), he took issue with conduct from both sides. He claimed our opposition was full of pain, disillusioned and vulnerable. Could he be right? Though his justifications relied on new-age appeal-to-nature sentiments (which are apparently objectively true for everyone), perhaps he had a point. Could our opposition, largely consisting of economically-disadvantaged individuals, be erroneously identifying immigrants as an explanation for their grievances? If so, did we really have a moral high-ground to belittle them for ignorant action spurred by desperation? Perhaps these issues may have been worthy of discussion, though on the day it appeared our opposition seemed more interested in making jokes about Hitler’s gas bill, swearing more than all other words combined, and convincing themselves they were not racist.

 

We also can’t ignore the fact that intimidation was their primary political weapon. Our tactic was social disapproval – we needed to show prospective “recruits”, onlookers (including tourists) and the wider public (via the media) that the people of Aotearoa would not tolerate racial supremacy – perhaps harsh denouncement was necessary to achieve this. Some have also argued that our counter-demonstration gives them greater public forum to push their bigotry. But the fact that they changed their location at the last minute shows that our presence was without a doubt against their interests – this alone provided us with a victory from the get-go.

 

Amidst all the chaos, members of our counter-demonstration figured that some good should come of what was a largely negative confrontation. As we were unable to fulfill our ultimate agenda of committing genocide on the white-European race, we resorted to an adequate compromise. Subsequently, more than $100 in donations was raised for the Canterbury Refugee Council – an organization committed to the social development of refugee communities in our region. Long after police had escorted our opposition from the square, people remained to discuss the issue of discrimination in it’s less salient forms, throughout all of our society. Flyers were distributed for a lecture the following evening, as well as magazines and pamphlets with relevant articles. It was impressive to see how a simple instance of activism could stimulate engagement in addressing societies ills.

 

One only needs to look at Golden Dawn in Greece, and Svoboda in Ukraine to understand how politically legitimate these groups can become without early and fierce opposition (and more recently, the European parliament!). Our counter-demonstration this past Saturday provided just that. So as bizarre as my Saturday spent yelling at Nazis was, it was also very inspiring. It showed me that the people of Aotearoa, no matter what their colour, culture or creeds, are both willing and able to stand in solidarity against fascism, racism, misogyny, homophobia; against discrimination in all it’s vile forms.

 

[Canta reject] “Simple lessons in economics” – Not as valid as you think?

I originally wrote this for Canta, in response to Canta article. Technically they didn’t reject it – they suggested I reshape it into a 200-word letter, said they’re “trying to balance out the voices” on inequality, and assured me they’d keep it on file and “try and get it in one of our issues next term.” Well, the term is over and it hasn’t appeared in Canta. So here it is in Counta!

 “Simple lessons in economics” – Not as valid as you think?
by Caleb Day and the UC Marxist Studies Network

The most galling thing about Elisha Nuttal’s recent article “Inequality: Not as Bad as You Think?” is the total lack of references or evidence. Elisha confidently offers his “simple lessons in economics,” blissfully unaware of how empirical evidence suggests the opposite of many of his “lessons.” Space only permits dissecting a few.

Elisha offers a rosy view of the minimum wage as something only 18-yr-olds and the lazy receive. The statistics paint a very different picture.

True, 61.3% of minimum wage workers are under 25 (not 18), mostly part-time students. But the other 38.7% are mostly full-time (ie, working more of the min-wage hours). They’re 57.9% women, and the ethnic divisions are striking: only 37.2% Pākehā (67.7% of total workforce), 21.4% Māori/Pacific (16.4% of total workforce), and a staggering 41.4% other ethnic groups (15.8% of total workforce).

In other words, if Elisha was Asian or African or Eastern European instead of Pākehā, his mum would be five times as likely to be on minimum wage and he’d be a lot more likely to realise how bullshit his description of min-wage work is.

Elisha also rewrites history shockingly, declaring that our “hunger for influence and affluence” has brought us “out of tyranny and poverty, and into the free world we live in today.” According to Elisha’s logic he should be a Maoist communist – the fastest sustained increase in living conditions in history was experienced between 1949 and 1980 in China. Industrialisation – capitalist or communist – has indeed increased standards of living for those able to industrialise; though not without significant social and environmental costs largely borne by everyone else.

One cost of capitalist industrialisation is inequality: Elisha suggests economic growth “benefit[s] all groups in society, especially the poor,” but under normal capitalist functioning, growth accrues mostly to the already-wealthy. And, since we’re social animals (not the atomised individuals Elisha sees), inequality matters to us. Research has linked inequality to everything from violence to mental illness to obesity, and suggested it threatens the economic growth Elisha is so fond of and the survival of our entire civilisation.

Elisha doesn’t mention NZ’s world-leading increases in inequality over the last 30 years, mostly due to our governments following ideas like Elisha’s. This hasn’t brought the sunshine and lollipops he predicts. Economic growth has concentrated in the hands of the rich while real wages have stagnated for the bottom half (p. 6-7). We work longer and less secure hours, have more debt, and pay more for housing (p. 13, 68-70). Poverty has skyrocketed, especially among the young; one in ten kids lived in poverty in the 80s, and now it’s more like one in four (p. 14-26, 96-147).

Elisha’s article is full of these unsubstantiated, anti-historical assertions, along with leaps of logic, internal contradictions, and circular reasoning. He’s obviously completely out of touch with the experience of the poor, and apparently equally disconnected from any standards of empiricism or reason – let alone awareness of more than one economic theory. All he offers is fundamentalist adherence to the dogmas of neo-liberalism: greed is good, economic growth is a panacea for all our problems, wealth and poverty are produced entirely by personal choice, the rich deserve more money, workers are more productive when earning poverty wages, and giving them a fairer share of the wealth they produce is “hand-outs” spoiling them and endangering the economy.

This is not surprising, considering this is the dominant ideology offered by post-1980s New Zealand society, all our recent governments, and Canterbury’s economics department. If we really want to “improve [our] person,” we’ll stop confusing this essentially religious ideology with “simple lessons in economics,” and start letting the facts expose it for what it is: propaganda by the exploiters, for the exploiters.

Students for Participatory Democracy – University of Canterbury

Students for Participatory Democracy is a movement to encourage discussion and participation in addressing the issues us indebted, academically-incarcerated, 21st century students face.

We as students have had our futures stolen from under us. We have slipped, and have been encouraged to slip, into a state of apathy about issues that are profoundly affecting all our futures. Reeling from relentless assaults on the university system by the establishment, our student movement has been fragmented and consequently fizzled. We have stepped out of the decision making process. The loss of our collective voice has imbued in some a paralysing defeatism and in others a cold cynicism.

Apathy was forced upon us by a political system that doesn’t listen to us, doesn’t care about us, and has no place for us. This is an experience by no means exclusive to the student population. It is endemic throughout our society. The result is what Victoria University academics Sandra Grey and Charles Sedgwick term a “democratic deficit”. The first step to negate this deficit is to reject apathy, and encourage the people around us to do the same. With this in mind we have established the Students for Participatory Democracy (SPD) – an organization that aims to promote participatory politics amongst tertiary students from across the political spectrum in Aotearoa, and to give voice to a silenced student population.

Apathy is a great buffer for peace of mind –  to be forced out of apathy is by no means pleasant. But neither is leaving the warmth of a bed, nor the womb. Apathy is the enemy, and the first step to breaking free is to be aware of where yourself and those around you stand. Discover your principles. Stand up for your principles. Challenge your principles. Rinse and repeat.

The University of Canterbury should not be a site for apathy. It by no means is, entirely, but there is much room for improvement. Christchurch needs an engaged student body thinking local issues. New Zealand needs an engaged student body thinking national issues. Earth needs an engaged student body thinking global issues. The current and coming generations face an unprecedented plethora of challenges, and those currently in higher education are set to inherit the responsibility for overcoming them. If we allow apathy to take a firm hold, our chances of effectively addressing tomorrow’s local, national and global issues are in serious jeopardy. Universities should be the cauldron of social and political critique, and our unions should be our political tool for our voices to be heard – the voices of tomorrow.

Participatory democracy centers on the simple proposition that for democracy to be effective it must be decentralised, it must elevate the voices of everyday people over their professional “representatives”. Voting for a different set of politicians once every 3 years is not enough. We need to look below and to our left and right instead of above. We need to be more than mere mouthpieces for those currently in power – they don’t represent us, only we can do that.

Change will not come swiftly; not today, or tomorrow, but the day when our generation assumes the helm.
Persistent apathy will condemn us to social and political stasis.

Students for Participatory Democracy is open membership. We encourage all students, former students, staff, future students, and general supporters to get involved if you are interested in organising in a horizontal and democratic way to address the concerns of 21st century students – that is, issues beyond lockers, microwaves and expensive coffee.

https://www.facebook.com/studentsforparticipatorydemocracy?fref=ts