Over the weekend of June 5-6th, the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement held its 3rd national conference since it was founded in October 2008. Almost all members were able to attend, meaning people from 5 different regions across the country were present, at the fantastic venue of the Wellington People’s Centre.
The weekend was spent reflecting on and discussing our activity over the previous 12 months, making some changes to our core politics (as written in our Aims & Principles) and how we work (detailed in our Constitution) and coming up with plans for the next 12 months, plus some longer term thinking as well.
Reflecting on the past 12 months
We discussed briefly the current state of class-struggle. While we have not come to any conclusions about what is happening in society, we considered that under the current recession, importance issues seem to be low pay, overwork, increasing casualisation and unemployment, increasing costs of living, cut backs to community, education and health services, the privatisation of services and infrastructure, and the rise of a surveillance state replete with more prisons and instruments of repression. While there has been some limited resistance, such as how government workers thawed the pay freeze that was placed on them, mostly resistance is still fragmented, small-scale, isolated and at a low-ebb.
Since the 2009 conference, AWSM has grown slightly – from having members in 3 regions, all in the North Island, to having members in 5 places across both islands.
We have been involved in supporting a range of different workplace struggles in various parts of the country, including (but not limited to): Zeal 320 flight attendants, JB Hi-Fi retail workers, Parliamentary cleaners, Ministry of Justice staff and Synovate call centre workers. We have also been involved in struggles for an increase to the minimum wage, for pay equity between men and women and against the proposed pay freeze for public sector workers.
Outside the workplace, we have been involved in fights against cuts to ACC, against the introduction of user-pays charges on residential water in Wellington, against the closure of the 198 Youth Health Centre in Christchurch, and against the introduction of the Search & Surveillance Bill nationally.
In Wellington and Christchurch we have organised (in coordination with Beyond Resistance in Christchurch) public discussion groups and film nights, on a range of topics including current attacks on the working class, mining in national parks, dole autonomy, tactics for workplace struggle, women and work, and more. We have also hosted talks by a member of the Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland, looking at how the WSM organise and some of their successes and failures over the past 25 years.
We have published 6 issues of our newssheet, Solidarity, and are now on target for publishing it every month, a goal which we previously had not been able to attain. The current distribution is 700 paper copies across 6 different centres, plus electronic distribution worldwide. Some discussion was held at the conference about increasing the number of paper copies we distribute.
In addition to this, we have produced a handful of different leaflets for various events and struggles, which have been distributed across the country. We have started writing news and analysis articles specifically for the website, as well as those we publish in Solidarity, and our members have been involved, on an individual level, in a variety of other things, including one who spent several months engaging in industrial action (including strikes) at their workplace, involvement in the October 15th Solidarity campaign, and more.
Changes to the Aims & Principles
Point 4, which used to read:
We support Tino Rangatiratanga and stand in solidarity with grassroots indigenous struggle and direct action, while not supporting Maori capitalism and corporatisation (we acknowledge the lack of anarchist theory on the indigenous struggle in Aotearoa / New Zealand and are in the process of researching, debating and discussing a more detailed position on this point).
We support Tino Rangatiratanga and stand in solidarity with flaxroots indigenous struggle and direct action. The state’s Treaty of Waitangi settlement process has benefited a small Maori capitalist elite, while doing little for working class Maori. While we respect tikanga Maori and te ao Maori, we believe that tino rangatiratanga is not possible for all Maori under capitalism and the state.
Point 9, which used to read:
We acknowledge that by implementing the organisation section of the The Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists – theoretical unity, tactical unity, collective responsibility and federalism – we will be best able to move forward in promoting the aims and principles of the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement.
We believe that by working with the principles of theoretical unity, tactical unity, collective responsibility and federalism, we will be best able to move forward in promoting the aims and principles of the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement.
We added two new points, 10 and 11:
10: We advocate a materialist analysis of capitalist society. We, the working class, can change and overthrow society through our own efforts. Worshipping an unprovable spiritual realm, or believing in a religious unity between classes, mystifies or suppresses such self-emancipation/liberation. While we respect people’s right to hold spiritual beliefs, we encourage skepticism toward any notion that people can be liberated through some kind of supernatural force.
11: The working class has no country. For a revolution based on anarchist-communist principles to succeed, it must be global, and in our exploitation by the ruling class we share a common experience with other working class people all over the planet. Internationalism is therefore crucial to our politics. While we oppose “national liberation” movements because they are cross-class in nature and harmful to worldwide working class solidarity, we support working-class resistance to colonialism and state oppression.
You can read our full, updated, aims & principles at http://www.awsm.org.nz/?page_id=14
Changes to the constitution
We made a number of (mostly minor) changes to our constitution, including further clarifying our decision making process, adjusting the responsibilities of two of our national positions (national secretary and treasurer), and some changes to our internal communication and internal education process.
We also changed the roles of the editors of Solidarity and our (yet-to-be-published, yet-to-be-named) magazine, so that they could be performed by a collective. We felt that this was necessary in order to make these roles accessible to more members, as when performed by one person they became very time consuming.
Our full, updated, constitution is on our website at http://www.awsm.org.nz/?page_id=50
Plans for the future
We have planned for a number of activities in the coming months and years. Firstly, much of what we are currently doing will continue – monthly discussions/film evenings in Wellington and Christchurch (and, we hope, soon Auckland as well), publishing Solidarity, strike support etc.
Additionally, we have set deadlines which will see the first issue of our magazine published before the end of 2010. The magazine will contain a variety of articles, including theory, in-depth news analysis, New Zealand class-struggle history, interviews and more.
We have planned to hold a small scale anarchist bookfair in Wellington within 12 months. The event will include stalls from political groups and publishing/distribution collectives, workshops and talks, and film screenings.
The next 12 months could also be full of conferences. AWSM will have another annual conference next year, but before then we are also planning a theory conference, which will consist of a whole weekend spent discussing 4 topics to try to formulate our thinking on them. So far, we have decided on 3 of the topics: Tino Rangatiratanga, Workplace Organising, and The Role of a Revolutionary Organisation in a Non-Revolutionary Period. There is also the possibility of an Oceania anarchist-communist conference, to be organised by the Melbourne Anarchist-Communist Group.
In Wellington, AWSM members are planning to help create new organisational forms that workers can use to get around the legal restrictions on the right to strike laid down by the repressive Employment Relations Act. Such forms would of necessity need to be independent of AWSM (or any other organisation).
AWSM is also planning a nationwide speaking tour over the next 12 months, which we hope will spur the creation (or growth) of branches in various centres, and build contacts in various centres, industries and groups. The topics are yet to be decided, but we hope they will be interesting and entertaining. If you would like to host the speaking tour in your town or city, please contact us. We will also be making a concerted effort to put out propaganda around the issues of low pay and overwork, which we feel are vital issues to confront, and will be using the opportunity of the General Election in late 2011 to spread the message of self-organisation as opposed to voting.
If you are interested in joining or simply finding out more about AWSM, you can visit our website at http://www.awsm.org.nz, email us at info [ at ] awsm.org.nz or send us a letter: PO Box 6387, Wellington 6141, New Zealand.