Anarchism in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington

February 27, 2007

The topic for the latest Carnival of Anarchy is Anarchism in your area. So I thought I’d tell you all a little about whats going on with anarchism in the town I grew up (and have spent most of my life) in, Te Whanganui-a-Tara / Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island of Aotearoa / New Zealand. This post does come a little late, but I’ve been busy the last couple of days so didn’t get a chance to write.

Wellington is a city of around 150,000 people, with around 400,000 in the region, making it the second largest city population wise in the country. In terms of anarchism and political activism, it is by far the largest though, although still relatively small.

In 2005 a few Wellington anarchists got together to organise a weekend focussed on the Wellington anarchist community – in the build up to this, we got together a list of around 95 self-identified anarchists to invite to the weekend (around 60 attended over the two days), so that gives you an idea of how many people there are floating round. The majority of anarchist activity, however, is probably done by around 20-35 people.

While there are only a handful of explicitly anarchist groups in Wellington, there are a number of other groups/organisations/institutions/projects with heavy anarchist involvement. I’ll try to detail most of them here briefly, although I’m sure I’ll forget a bunch!

Anarchist Groups

Wildcat Anarchist Collective – Wildcat calls itself a class-struggle anarchist group, and has undertaken a variety of activity throughout the 2-3 years it has existed, from protests to leafletting to discussion sessions to producing a weekly broadsheet. Currently Wildcat is continuing with its weekly discussions on a range of topics relating to anarchism, producing the Aotearoa Anarchist, an Aotearoa anarchist zine and irregularly producing SNAP!, it’s (formerly weekly) news broadsheet. Despite it being the only class focussed group in Wellington, a large number of class-focussed anarchists are not involved in the Wildcat collective – this is due to a number of reasons, including personality clashes, disagreements with Wildcat’s activity and the (perhaps at times, although certainly no longer true) perception that Wildcat was solely the domain of old(er) white men.

The Freedom Shop – By far the oldest anarchist group in Aotearoa, the Freedom Shop collective has been runing for close to 12 years. The collective runs Wellington’s anarchist infoshop, selling anarchist books, zines, pamphlets, patches, badges and more. The Freedom Shop first opened it’s doors on May Day 1995 and despite its original home being moved to make way for a motorway bypass, the shop has withstood 2 moves and plenty of adventure to reside in it’s current home of Shop 204b, Left Bank, just off Cuba Mall in the heart of Wellington’s central city. While the collective has gone through ups and downs, its currently in a fairly strong state. In addition to the shop, the Freedom Shop also does anarchist bookstalls at community festivals (most recently the Island Bay fair last week), conferences (most recently the Aotearoa Indymedia conference in Auckland in January) and other places (like the Parihaka Peace Festival 5 or so hours north of Wellington in January). The shop is open 10am-8pm Monday – Friday and 11:30am ish – 8pm ish on Weekends.

Wellington Anarcha-Femmes – The Welly A-Fems have been going on and off for some time now, and in their current form have monthly discussion meetings, organise actions and events and support sessions. I can’t say I know too much more about them, so I’ll leave that one there.

A-Men! – A group of male-identified anarchists who used to get together weekly to discuss and work on issues relating to patriarchy and male privelige. Sadly dormant at the moment, but could spring back to life any minute now?

Poneke Black Pages – An annual “yellow pages” style directory for anarchist and activist groups in Wellington.

Groups with heavy anarchist involvement

Magnetic Fridge Diary – Contrary to its name, this diary is neither magnetic nor a fridge. What it is, however, is a monthly calendar (folded A3 size) of activist and community events that gets distributed around Wellington (current print run of 200). Each issue generally has a theme and contains a handful of short articles/reviews on that theme – for example, the March issue focusses on the Iraq invasion and International Wom*n’s Day. The March issue is at the printers now, so keep an eye out for it around town in the next couple of days, Wellingtonians!

Wellington Animal Rights Network (WARN) – WARN is a motley crew of vegans that do stalls, actions, public meetings, film nights and whatever else springs into their heads. Activity fluctuates from heavy to barely living at seemingly a moments notice, but the group continues. They also have an office which is useful for storing animal liberation propaganda.

Peace Action Wellington – PAW organises around anti-war and anti-militarism issues. Originally a mix of anarchists, socialists (of varying flavours) and liberals, it is now mostly (though not entirely) anarchist in composition. Its most recent activity was a protest against the visit of John Howard to Wellington, and is currently planning for events around the 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Oblong – Oblong is a collectively (predominantly anarchist) volunteer run internet cafe, which also currently houses The Freedom Shop. Political art/photo exhibitions adorn the walls, with plenty of political conversations filling the room at all hours of the day. Infrequent workshops are held, including training on basic computer usage, linux and other open source software and more. The shop is open 10am-8pm Monday – Friday and 11:30am ish – 8pm ish on Weekends.

W(((i)))ndymedia – W(((i)))ndy is the Wellington collective that helps run Aotearoa Indymedia. They also run several large-scale film nights a year and produce a monthly (or so) print newspaper, mostly consisting of articles and photos from the Indymedia website.

128 – For many Wellington anarchists, 128 is their second (or sometimes first!) home. 128, located at 128 Abel Smith St (original name, eh?) is the local anarchist/activist community centre. The house, formerly a squat, is now leased on a peppercorn rental. The house is situated near the central city, about 5 minutes walk from Oblong/The Freedom Shop, and has three live in caretakers. It has plenty of space for meetings, parties, film screenings, yoga, dance practices and visiting activists from around Aotearoa and overseas. It also houses: Revolting Books, an anarchist library; a Wom*ns space, the Mechanical Tempest, a bike workshop; an open art space; a wood workshop; Kotahi te Ao, a grassroots film project and more.

Save Happy Valley Wellington – The local group of a national coalition working to save a place called Happy Valley, on the West Coast of the South Island of Aotearoa, from being turned into an open-cast coal mine by state-owned mining company Solid Energy. Organises film nights, fundraisers, protests, stalls and public meetings, and encourages people to go to the 13 month old occupation of Happy Valley and now the 3 week old occupation of nearby Mt Augustus as well.

Community Gardens – Anarchists are involved in two community gardens projects in Wellington – Common Ground out near the South Coast of Wellington, and Arlington Gardens, in the central city near a large area of council flats. Additionally, the Innermost Garden project is a refugee, migrant and local wom*n’s project to establish their own community garden in the near future.

Aotearoa Jews For Justice – AJFJ came into existance late last year during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. It is a collection of (mostly anarchist) Jews, ranging from anti-Zionist to non-Zionist and left-Zionist who organise around issues relating to Israel/Zionism, racism/anti-semitism and Tino Rangatiratanga (Maori self-determination). The group is predominantly based in Wellington. It has been dormant so far this year but should be back into it in the near future.

By and large, in recent years, anarchism in Wellington has been dominated by lifestylist and individualist currents (and a less kind person might add reformist to that), although these have never been all encompassing. Over the past 6 months or so, I have begun to notice a move (back) towards a class-struggle focus (although frequently not exclusively so) by a number of local anarchists, and a simultaneous move towards a post-leftist stance by a number of others. Could this be a mini-split in the making? Only time will tell.

All in all, anarchism in Wellington is cemented by a number of friendship circles and cliques that simultaneously help the community exist/stay active and make it hard for (especially less confident) new people to enter and get involved. Also, for long term activists outside of the friendship circles, it can be hard to remain “in the know”.

Rapist cops back in court

February 22, 2007

As you’ve probably heard if you’re in Aotearoa, rapists Clint Rickard, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton are back in court this week over another rape they committed while police officers in Rotorua in the 1980’s. In this case, the three are charged with kidnapping and indecent assault against a wom*n who was just 16 at the time it occurred.

Last year, the three were on trial for raping another wom*n, Louise Nicholas, however, they were found not guilty by the injustice system. This verdict sparked off a wave of activity around the country, with thousands of people spreading information (in leaflets and emails) that the courts had declared illegal to spread in a statement of support for Louise Nicholas and all rape survivors. In addition, marches were held in Auckland and Christchurch. In the aftermath of the spread of the suppressed information, 3 people were charged with Breach of a Suppression Order, 2 in Christchurch (both were found guilty and fined) and one in Wellington.

I think we had a rare opportunity during that time to really raise questions about rape/intimate violence and how our society treats survivors. To some extent I believe that was done – I recall walking down the street at the time and overhearing people I’d never seen before discussing both the trial and the wider issues around it of sexism, the injustice system, rape culture and police power. Now, months later, that opportunity may be coming back, and I hope we all use it to really begin challenging ourselves and each other.

So often rape is seen as something done by the “other”, by the man in the jacket hiding around the corner. This could not be further from the truth – in most rapes, the rapist knows the survivor, and in many cases they are in a relationship. Unfortunately, it seems that it may have taken a case such as this (the survivor was in a relationship with Shipton at the time the rape occured) to make people realise this.

For more on the case, check out Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty.

Carnival of Anarchy – Anarchism in your area!

February 18, 2007

Sorry about the quiet on here recently, I’ve had a lot happening and haven’t had much of a chance to write, and when I have been I’ve been working on the next issue of my zine (coming soon-ish) and 2 pamphlets I’m writing (coming not-so-soonish).

In the meantime though, I just wrote up a callout for the next Carnival of Anarchy. If there’s any anarchists out there keen to write on this carnival, then go post in the comments to the callout and someone will give you permissions hopefully :)

It’s almost time for the next carnival, this one on the topic Anarchism in your area.

The carnival will be next weekend, from Friday 23rd through til Sunday 25th, so get cracking on your posts, and when the time comes throw them up here (and on your own blogs).

A few questions to consider while posting:

  • How common are anarchist ideas in your area?
  • Are there many people who actively identify as some sort of anarchist?
  • Is there one stream of anarchism that is dominant (eg anarcho-syndicalism, ultra-leftism, anarcho-primitism, insurrectionary anarchism etc)? If so, why?
  • What anarchist groups/organisations/institutions exist in your town, if any? Are they old or relatively new?
  • What is the makeup of anarchists in your area as compared to the general population (ethnicity, gender, sexuality etc)
  • Does your area have a history of lots of anarchist activity? If so, how does that affect modern anarchist activity and how it is percieved?
  • What do anarchists do in your area?

Feel free to be as broad or narrow as you want – discuss your street, suburb, city or country, whatever takes your fancy.

If you want to post on this carnival but aren’t currently a member, post your email in the comments and hopefully someone will add you.

In the meantime, use the comments on this thread to suggest and hopefully decide on a topic for the next carnival. For previously suggested topics, check out here and here.

Congrats to Kakariki on the new baby!

February 7, 2007

I promised Kakariki that I’d do an announcement when her baby was born, so here it is. Just got a text saying a happy healthy baby girl was born at 4:59am this morning. Wicked! Huge congrats to the parents :)

In other news, Waitangi Day has come and gone, so in the spirit of that, here’s a movie well worth watching. Tuhoe – A history of resistance. Click here if you can’t see the embedded video.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers