Anarchism in New Zealand interview

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Anarchia's picture
Joined: 18-03-06
Apr 28 2008 08:02
Anarchism in New Zealand interview

The following is from Alasbarricadas via A-Infos. I'd agree with much of what Omar has to say, although not all - certainly I think his 200-300 anarchists is an overestimate, certainly if you're referring to people who are actively involved in any way.

But still, it should be an interesting read for anyone interested...

The following interview was conducted via email between Spanish anarchist
website and Omar, an Aotearoa Anarchist of New Zealand who is
involved in Indymedia Aotearoa and the Auckland Anarchist Collective.---- ALB -
We'd like to know at first, if there is something we could take as an "anarchist
movement" in New Zealand. Which is its nature? I mean, is it a popular movement,
class struggle, community, counter cultural... ? ---- When we speak of an
anarchist movement is New Zealand we are basically speaking of around 200-300
people based mainly in the major cities, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and
Dunedin and organised through a variety of collectives, organisations and social
networks. The orientation of individuals within the anarchist movement is very
diverse, with some people involved in primarily activist projects, like human
rights, worker struggle, feminist, anti-racist, animal rights, anti-war, global
justice, and environmental concerns. The other main trend are those others who
are orientated more towards a counter-cultural outlook with an emphasis on the
creation of local alternatives and community projects. Lots of people are
involved in both types though.

ALB -Could you make a quick summary about the history of the anarchist movement
in the recent decades?

Since 1999, the anti-globalisation movement has had a very important impact on
anarchists in Aotearoa, as has the anti-war movement since 2001, the movement
against genetic engineering, and the climate change movement now emerging. These
are the main movements most anarchists have been involved in over the last ten
years. During the 1990s, anarchists were heavily involved in activism against
the neo-liberal reforms that changed the New Zealand economy and made life very
difficult for the unemployed and the poor. Also they were involved in campaigns
to stop logging of native forests which was a successful campaign. Another major
campaign anarchsts were involved in in the 1990s was in solidarity with the
people of East Timor. In the 1980s anarchists were involved in the movement
against sporting contacts with South Africa, and against nuclear-ship visits and
testing of nuclear bombs in the Pacific, and against racism in New Zealand.

ALB- Are there in Aoteoroa "libertarian" social movements not splicitly
anarchists? I mean, those movements that don't consider themselves as anarchist
but share plenty of common elements with the anarchists. What can you tell about

There are lots of anti-authoritarian, anarchistic organisations that anarchists
are involved in in Aotearoa. These include Indymedia, Food Not Bombs and
Critical Mass. In Wellington there is lots of anti-war activity around the group
Peace Action Wellington which many anarchists there are involved with. In
Christchurch and throughout Aotearoa many anarchists are involved in the Save
Happy Valley campaign against coal-mining in the South Island. I think these
types of organisations and movements consume the majority of time of activist
anarchists in Aotearoa.

ALB- To have a proper idea, in which cities, towns, areas, the movement/scene is
more powerful?

Traditionally the stronghold of anarchism in Aotearoa has been Wellington, the
capital city which has a well establised anarchist community house, infoshop,
anarchist press, and strong ties to the inner-city bohemian suburbs. This means
Wellington has the most organised anarchist community. In Auckland there are
less anarchists although it is a larger city, and there is no social centre or
infoshop, although there was for some of 2007. In Christchurch there is a social
centre and some fairly active collectives.

ALB- Are there different tendencies inside the movt. or is it more or less

The anarchist movement is quite homogenous and this means that people who are
attracted to it are very particular. It is a mix of lifestylism and
anti-authoritarian protest movementism that is quite common to most youth
anarchist scenes. There are strong punk and hippy influences as well. Although
there are a scattering of anarchosyndicalists, class struggle anarchists most
people are quite movement orientated and there is very little production of
theory and analysis by anarchists in Aotearoa.

ALB- Which are the biggest or most important anarchist or libertarian
organisations? Are there nacional federations, networks?

In my opinion the most important libertarian organisation is aotearoa indymedia,
which has anarchists involved in five cities in Aotearoa. There was also an
attempt to set-up an Aotearoa Anarchist Network, but that fell on its face.
There is also the Anarcha-feminist Network which has collectives in three cities
and is the most active of the national networks.

ALB- Are there any national anarchist gathering, national conference, bookfair
and so on... ? which are the biggest events?

There was an anarchist conference in 2007 which attracted 60 participants but in
my view was a failure, as it failed to achieve the objective we set it of
establishing an anarchist network, and a 2005 conference which attracted around
the same number and was mostly workshops. With the absence of cross-city
organisation and networking there is little attempts to build anarchist movement
through larger national events, which ends up reinforcing the isolation of
collectives and individuals.

ALB- Is there any social movement in which the anarchist participate? Which
degree of influence could they have?

Anarchists in recent years have had lots of participation in the anti-war,
union, environmental movements and are very much at the forefront of many of
these struggles, actively engaged in promoting direct action and direct
democracy in the organisations of these movements. For example in the campaign
to free some Iranian asylum-seekers held in jail, the Auckland anarchist
collective was at the forefront of this struggle and did a civil disobedience
action at the jail, as well as participating in the pickets. Anarchists also
played a large role in the campaign for a living wage at fast food restaurants
like McDonalds, especially through the anticapitalist youth group Radical Youth,
which organised a high school strike.

ALB- In which campaigns are the anarchists actively involved?

At the moment the main work anarchists are doing is in solidarity with those
activists including myself, Maori and anarchist who were arrested on October
15th 2007, and charged for having allegedley attended armed training camps and
possesing rifles and molotov cocktails, in a mountainous remote area of New
Zealand called the Ureweras, which is the traditional homeland of the Tuhoe
tribe. Also campaigns anarchists are involved in are the Save Happy Valley
campaign, anti-fur, battery farming and vivisection campaigns and others are
involved in ongoing community projects toi build peoples self-reliance and autonomy.

ALB- Which are the relationships with other political movements (ie communists,
trots, greens, etc.)?

Anarchists have quite a close relationship with the Green Party and some are
members. In Auckland anarchists work closely in broad political work with the
two main Marxist-Leninist groups, and other smaller trot groups.
Marxist-Leninists are mainly based in Auckland where they are relativley strong,
where as in the rest of New Zealand they are quite weak.

ALB- Which is the relationship ?of anarchists- with other countries, like
Australia, Britain? Are there any anarchist people in other islands on the
Pacific Ocean?

Anarchists mostly cultivate their own individual contacts with anarchists in
different parts of the world. There is some co-ordination with anarchists in
Australia, especially Melbourne, where anarchists from New Zealand often go to
live or holiday. Throughout a year there are often anarchists/autonomist people
from Europe and North America who come and live and stay and work in different
collectives. My own collective in Auckland last year had an Italian, a Russian
and a German involved as well as an anarchist from Melbourne and two anarchists
from Tucson, Arizona. Sadly there are no anarchists as I am aware of on Pacific
Islands but there are lots of anticapitalists especially in Tonga involved in
the movement against the monarchy and in kanaky/new caledonia where there is a
strong movement against French rule and the power of transnational mining

ALB- Which is the relationship with the Maori people? Are there any
"anarchist-Maori" collective? Are there any convergence with them?

The relationship with Maori people is quite good, especially with the Tuhoe
tribe as we both have been repressed by the state, shared the same cells,
court-appearances and protests against this repression. There are also a number
of Maori anarchists and projects which are both Maori and and anti-capitalist
but no openly anarchist Maori collective. One example is Conscious
Collaborations project which has worked to build recognition of Maori
self-determination and supported Maori people victimised by the recent police

ALB- Finally, which is the future for our movement in Aoteoroa?

Looming large on the horizon is the trial of us, 19 anarchists and Maori
arrested on October 15th and afterwards, and we all face possibly long prison
sentences if convicted. The trial will be sometime in 2009. My estimation of the
movement is that lots of people are feeling quite tired and burnt out by
constant activism especially under a state of tension, caused by the police. In
2005, Sam Buchanan, a veteran anarchist from Wellington, wrote an article called
"Attack of the Headless Chickens" which was widely circulated because it struck
a chord with many people who have been worn out with endless protesting for many
good causes but little long-term strategy and planning on how to change the
world and failure to develop anarchist organisation beyond campaigning groups or
single issue projects. I think that if strong, cohesive and pursposeful local
collectives can be built which focus on issues that are important to everyday
people, issues of the environment; human rights, worker rights, colonisation and
the New Zealand government's ongoing collaboration with imperialist, militarists
and repressive regimes in the United States, in China, and across the world, we
may see an upturn for the anarchist movement in its ability in challenging the
gross excessives of the powerful.