From Class Struggle 49 March/April 2003

The following letter was written by comrade Justin to a Syd, a fellow activist in the National Distribution Union (NDU). It talks mainly about the work of the Anti-Imperialist Coalition (AIC) and the importance of organising workers against the imperialist war plans to attack Iraq. It criticises the current Council of Trade Unions (CTU) stand supporting the Labour government joining the UN-sponsored war against Iraq, and the NDU petition backing this position circulated on the February 15th mass anti-war marches. Justin points the way forward out of this gutless subservience to Labour Government policy by calling for rank and file workers to rally on May Day this year to strike against imperialist war.

Tena KoeBrother,

A bit of history of the Anti-Imperialist Coalition.

Our United Front organisation the Anti Imperialist Coalition has been in existence since shortly after Sept 11 2001, not too long after the Carter Holt Harvey Interion strike here in Manurewa. Quite consciously different from the rest of the anti-war movement, our orientation has been trade union and worker based with a heavy emphasis on the “Rank and File.” Whilst we have no formal membership structure, workers and individuals from all of the main unions including the NDU, PPTA, ASTE, SFWU, Rail and Maritime, FINSEC, AWU, AUS, University Students etc and the “Engineers,” have made valuable contributions and continue to do so.

It became obvious from the inaugural meeting that the AIC was not going to be a “Peacenik” organisation, but one dedicated to militant struggle with workers in the vanguard. To date, our tasks have included organising the militant wing of the anti-war movement on all demos, rallies and pickets. Dissemination of non-mainstream information and politically educational material is a big part of AIC’s work. We have regular monthly solidarity actions with the PHRC (Palestinian Human Rights Campaign) and hold forums with invited speakers on all topics affecting workers. A talk late last year after the Bali bombing by a lecturer in Indonesian from Auckland University gave a valuable insight into the prejudiced perceptions being pushed by the West against Moslems and its flow down effects on all indigenous struggles including here in Aotearoa.

Our engagements with trade unions have been central to much of our activity. AIC has sent delegations along to stop-work meetings of the Watersiders and Seafarers unions to name but a few.

During the general elections last year, I and another member made two trips down to the Kinleith Timber Mill in Tokoroa as part of a fact finding tour. OK, so a big part of it consisted of getting pissed at the “Trees Tavern” in Tokoroa, but I was able to gauge the extent of the mess created by the “Engineers” – by the leadership of the Engineers’ Union. One bloke I met was so hacked off with the decision to go with the Engineers back in “91,” that he quit and became a screw at Waikeria. Politically a bad move I would have thought. I met a couple of truckies from Putaruru with the National Distribution Union Transport sector, who were worried about their jobs as a result of the Kinleith lay-offs. They must have realised that I wasn’t intimidated by a pub full of “Engineers” because they didn’t hassle me once for wearing my “Woodies” hi-viz jacket. Imperialism did come up as a topic of conversation especially after they got to read some of our material and related it to the Carter Holt Harvey’s owners, International Paper.

Our second trip to Tokoroa coincided with election night. We spent some time at local MP and Minister of Defence Mark Burton’s campaign HQ. There, we got to meet more Kinleith Workers and yet more “Engineers” – it was a very right-wing atmosphere with the local Chairman telling me that the Alliance were nuts for not backing the US War of Terrorism.

AIC/CWG’s most ambitious venture to date has been to send one of its members to Argentina to look at the revolution taking place there. We learned that the Argy Workers after being crapped on for so long took it upon themselves to occupy hundreds of factories left by their bosses. Some have even started exporting. Having turned their backs on all mainstream political parties and traditional unions especially their bureaucrats, they have organised themselves into site committees working closely with neighbourhood committees, who in turn have formed into Popular Assemblies. Many problems lie ahead for them, but they have resolved to oppose all attempts by the US and the UN to impose their rule through the World Bank, the IMF and the military. Politically they are light years ahead of us, but they point in the direction we should be headed in.

Because of AIC’s Anti-Imperialist Kaupapa, we realise that it is the Workers and their organisations who must lead the fight. So far, and it’s still early days, workers, and I include AIC, have had to tail after the: Peaceniks, Greenies, Churchies and anyone with an axe to grind. As you probably noticed on the march, Maori representation is almost non-existent. Each time that I’ve driven to an anti-war or political action, I’ve had to drive past sports fields crowded with our people indulging in organised nothingness designed by the ruling class. Don’t get me wrong, I love my rugby, but I’ve learned that my priorities aren’t what they used to be. It is important that we as Maori workers redirect that wasted energy toward the struggle. So far, the only ones happy with that status quo, are the “Bosses”, because a Maori with a rugby ball is not likely to be a “staunch politico.”AIC has organised public speaking engagements at Otara Flea Market in the past and similar venues with the idea of getting our people on board. Much interest has been shown, though this has not been greatly manifest by numbers on marches and so forth.

The so-called anti-war NDU Petition

The so called anti-war petition on Iraq being circulated by the National Distribution Union has come in for a considerable amount of flak due to its inference that war can be averted by working through the UN. The first of the six points outlined in the petition clearly states the NDU’s support for the Govt’s “consideration for military assistance” (support for war in any other lingo) against Iraq as long as it is mandated by the UN within international law. In effect the union would support the slaughter of Iraqi “workers” and their families. “International Workers Solidarity” and “Workers of the World Unite,” would become empty and meaningless. Even peace groups with pro-UN views in the past are beginning to recognise the Imperialist role of the UN and reversing their positions accordingly.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but support for Phil Goff by the NDU totally misrepresents the position taken by the anti-war movement since S11. Not only has he been burned in effigy and had reams of uncomplimentary stuff written about him, but he has gone on record as calling anti-war Green MP Keith Locke, “despicable” for opposing the US war. When I got my copy of the NDU petition in the mail the other day, I couldn’t believe it. It became the subject of an AIC meeting before the big demo and was roundly condemned. When my turn came to speak on behalf of AIC during the open mike session after the demo, I tore the bloody thing up. Unfortunately by that stage you blokes had gone. Promoting Labour Govt. foreign policy is not the job of the union.

Days later at a meeting of the Auckland CTU, a vote was taken to reject war even with UN backing, leaving the authors of the petition with egg on their faces. Stealing a march on their “Blue Collar” comrades last year, the PPTA and ASTE voted against war, UN or no UN. Again like “Springbok 81”, it is education sector unions taking the lead.

When the NDU calls on all workers to involve themselves in all anti-war activity, it should be saying that we lead them rather than become just another participant.

Without going into the finer details of the remaining points of the petition, I’d just like to say that the US has succeeded in one respect. It has focused “all” attention onto “Terrorism” and “Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).” They have set the agenda by forcing the politically naive including the trade unions (see the Petition) to construct opinions and actions that presuppose that they are telling us the truth. Daily, they are exposed as liars trying to feed and sow paranoia that is only given legitimacy because many people put serious limits on the degree to which they would question what is going on. So far, like the mainstream mass media, the trade union movement has failed to publicly say that we are witnessing the biggest “red herring” deception in history. The anti-war movement has consistently spelled out “No war for oil” and yet the trade unions stick to the WMD and Terrorism agenda of the imperialists. We know that the war is about more than just oil. Iraq is being made an example of as a warning to any nation that dares to defy the will of the US. In other words, they shit on “Tino Rangatiratanga.” All union statements on the next stage of the US war (since we have already seen the first 12 years of it), must define clearly and loudly the real intentions of the US without kowtowing to the crap that they have been feeding us all this time. At the end of the day, the only thing standing in the way of a US Imperialist victory is the combined force of the “international working class” which is are imperialism’s arch enemy.

Let’s look briefly at the peace-loving UN.

First of all, the UN represents Govts including dictatorships and monarchies none of which are friendly to workers. It was the UN that legitimised the forced removal of Palestinian “Tangata Whenua” from their ancestral lands by recognising the racist state of Israel in 1948. A raupatu that exists to this very day. The UN forced the separation of Korea into North and South in 1950, culminating in the US-forced crisis that has continued to the brink of a US nuclear attack. The UN stepped aside in Lebanon in 1982, while the Israelis committed mass slaughter with US weaponry. In East Timor, the UN did nothing to avert the genocide being committed by Indonesian soldiers trained by the Yanks, Brits, Aussies and Kiwis over a 35-year period. Only after anti-worker US stooge Suharto was dumped from power in ‘98, did the UN take the step to “stage” a rescue. Their bulwark against the threat of a worker-led uprising was no longer in power.The Kiwi and Aussie military who helped bring Suharto to power in 1965 merely became “Blue Berets” and phoney “Peace Keepers.”

To date however, the UN’s prize achievement has been the more than 1 million Iraqis who have died directly as a result of UN imposed sanctions. The weak-kneed UN General Assembly (which some misguided Social-Democrats see as a saviour) represents the overwhelming majority of Govts who have never effected any change through mass protest against the indulgences of the UN Security Council because they are kept in place by the purse strings of the imperialist US.

Workers must seek redress and solutions through their own organisations and international affiliations which account for far more people than the discredited and corrupt UN can ever hope to muster. After all, that’s what we are here for. We must force the issue of characterising the US leaders and their lackeys as international war criminals by supplying the overwhelming evidence that their actions amount to incitement to commit “massive” violence and violate every human rights protocol in existence. Their “mugs” should be plastered on international bulletin boards as the world’s “Most Wanted.” This has to be one of the key demands of all union anti-war activity. Screw the UN, let’s talk about “workers justice.” The cautious and conservative approach of the trade unions has served to undermine all efforts by the progressive Workers movement to combat the forces that we face. Like “Marae Justice” which is belittled by the mainstream, we must push these demands to the forefront of everything we do and nothing less.

Let’s join forces to organise a militant anti-war May Day

May Day will soon be upon us and with the war clouds gathering, we have the opportunity to make it like no other before it. AIC is promoting the idea of holding a May Day Saturday rally in South Auckland culminating in a festival of music with a strong anti-war theme. Of course union input together with the chance for recruitment would be paramount. If anything is going to get our Rangatahi and workers involved, it is going to be the chance to showcase their talents politically. I’m sure Jo and Roopu Kotuku would love to perform “Maa Te Reo” which has a social message to our people on stage. Think about it. It would be a coup for the NDU. The latest word I hear is that there are many young people who are starting to express their feelings about the US-led war in music etc. Over the years, we have seen political Kapa Haka and powerful messages coming from our Rangatahi with their Reggae, Hip hop, R&B and Rap. Its time to “Brown” this movement. Let’s give them a go. Let’s raise this in the NDU Maori Runanga. If any union structure is going to have a significant influence, it is going to be the Runanga.

Anti-worker laws posing as anti-terror laws

On a related subject, my home Marae of Nga Tai Erua is putting in a submission opposing the South Auckland Prison proposal at Meremere not because of Waahi Tapu or Taniwha, but because of the potential of union members or workers taking political industrial action against the state in the event of war and being incarcerated en mass. The Govt has threatened to invoke the Terrorism Suppression Act if Workers threaten a general strike or something similar that would disrupt economic infrastructure. Such a scenario already exists in the US, where purpose-built facilities are under construction. In Britain at the moment, the Fire Fighters union has threatened a general strike if Blair goes into Iraq. Blair has consequently threatened to brand them “Terrorists” and deal with them accordingly. In Aotearoa/NZ, no union has considered such a proposal in relation to Prison submissions. This is an expression of the extent to which AIC politics has had an effect.

AIC’s latest initiative is the formation of a new UF called DAWA (Direct Anti-War Action) which was created on Wed 19th Feb at the Auckland Trades Hall. This is where we hold our regular meetings every Wednesday night 7.30pm. At the meeting there were members from GPJA (Global Peace and Justice Auckland) who organised the big demo and many unions especially the Seafarers and it was decided that direct action was necessary to deal with the looming crisis. This could include strikes, civil disobedience and directly interrupting the political and military affairs currently being conducted by both NZ and the US on NZ soil. DAWAs first action was a protest outside Whenuapai Airbase Sun 30th at 12.00 noon.

So to conclude brother, I’d just like to say that the “X” factor necessary to give some “Kaha” to our struggle is for the “Leadership” to be taken by Maori workers with the Runanga being the starting point. If anything, it is the Runanga that has been the single most progressive element within our union or any union for that matter for a very long time, thanks to your leadership. It was the Runanga that stepped outside of the traditional economism of trade unions and took on the Steven Wallace issue, a courageous and political move that has set a precedent for all other unions and workers organisations.

Nuff said. Kia Kaha Brother. Kia ora koe ano Syd.


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