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2012: “celebrity” PM – collective action

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, December 23rd, 2012 - 46 comments
Categories: class war, climate change, david cunliffe, economy, housing, john key, labour, Minister for Photo-ops, petition, poverty, sustainability, Unions - Tags: , , , ,

Throughout 2012, John Key and neoliberal individualism remained dominant. The panel on the last Citizen A panel, agreed that John Key’s is successfully continuing his gig as “celebrity PM” and is de-politicising the Prime Minister role. This diverts attention from the important issues.  However, the opposition did carry out some significant actions based on collaborative efforts.  These were often small and local, and some were organised in a more progressive way than others: some were ed by those in control of an organisation, and others were used a leaderless approach to participant democracy.

The year began with Occupy encampments around the country still in place. The Occupy movement, practicing leaderless participant democracy, had begun in opposition to WallSstreet and the bankster destruction of the global economy.   It gave us some terms with special and widely understood meanings: the 1% and the 99%.   This enabled a clear focus on social, economic and political inequalities.

The NZ local councils and police broke up the NZ Occupy encampments early in 2012, and the MSM internationally did their best to pronounce the movement dead.  However, the movement continues, largely away from the media spotlight.  Hundreds of Auckland students occcupied Queen Street, closing down the CBD in June, protesting education cuts.  This was a follow-up to their Blockade the Budget’ rally the previous week.

Protesters began  occupying Housing NZ property in Glen Innes in February, with the protests continuing throughout the year. Along the way, Mana Party MP Hone Harawira, plus John Minto, got arrested. The women from the Glen Innes protest were honoured with a stage call at the anti-Asset Sales rally in Auckland last month.

Glen Innes Women

Glen Innes Women

UK Occupy veteran, Matthew Varnham, explains why the movement is still relevant and live.

“The connections and lessons learned during that time have formed a network of people and groups that are becoming increasingly active – mostly below the media radar.”

In October, opposition Parties joined together to carry out a parliamentary inquiry into the manufacturing crisis.  They also joined with Grey Power, students and other groups to gather signatures for a petition for a referendum on Asset Sales.  MSM journalists now tend to accept that, if there is a change of government in 2014, it’ll be a Labour-Green coalition.

Local groups campaigning against poverty and for beneficiaries were very active, including the AAP, with the Onehunga Impact for three days earlier this month.  Trained advocates did advocacy casework, helping beneficiaries to access their social security entitlements.

MUNZ did what unions traditionally do, and stood in solidarity against the POAL’s attempts to make their  jobs more”flexible” and less secure.  They won a significant victory in the courts earlier this month.

This week  in the UK Guardian, Suzanne Moore declared 2012 as the year of the foodbank (which she describes as the neoliberal era term for soup kitchens).  This is another grass roots collective enterprise that was stretched to the limit, here as well as in the UK.

Earlier this month young people from Powershift, NZ’s biggest summit on climate and cutting back on the use of  fossil fuels.  Before the summit, young people promoted it with a flashmob, gangnam style:

The Labour Party Conference was a significant moment for the members, (as argued by Chris Trotter) and the left wing blogosphere.  The process for electing the parliamentary leader became more democratic, and it is hoped that this will have flow on effects. The Labour Caucus has been reluctant to take up party conference remits in the past, and the List candidates preferred by LECs don’t always get through the caucus filter. It’s hoped that such things will improve in the future.  The democratisation of the party was largely ignored by the MSM, while the TV cameras focused on asking Cunliffe when he was going to stage a coup. In fact, this was more of a preemptive strike by the current leadership to take out Cunliffe, and strengthen the leadership.

In the aftermath, Colonial Viper was pressured to stop posting on the Standard, whereby the blog became a nest of supportive vipers , in another bit of spontaneous collective action.

According to Bomber yesterday, the manufacturing of the Cunliffe coup by the MSM and anonymous leaks from the Labour Caucus leadership, indicates how Key is still popular. This is partly manufactured by sympathetic journalists.

However, the gloss is gradually wearing off Key, and the collective actions during the lat year, indicate the way flax roots activists should focus their attention in the next year.  There are huge problems in the world today, that can only be solved through collaborative actions; resource depletion, climate change, poverty.  Participate, network, organise. And as Sam Johnson, organiser of the Christchurch post-earthquake, student volunteers says, “Contribute”.

This and Powershift are two of several examples of innovative young Kiwis, as written about by Rod Oram in today’s article: Young, Gifted and Kiwi.

Some methods of collaborative action will be better than others in bringing positive change.  Will 2013 see more of such efforts?  And will the MSM finally give them the attention they deserve?

46 comments on “2012: “celebrity” PM – collective action”

  1. Thanks Karol and a good summary.

    I suspect the battle between the blogs and the MSM is only going to intensify this year. Already there is an increasing tension between the MSM’s desire to manufacture a false reality and our desire to tear that facade down.

    And there is an increasing weariness amongst activists about the quality of political representation and the capture of Parliament by vested interests.

    Overseas there have been major flash points. I am surprised that we have not seen more locally but some of the developments that you mention are evidence of things bubbling below the surface.

    • Colonial Weka 1.1

      ” I am surprised that we have not seen more locally”

      Sleepy Hobbit Syndrome. They do quite well when finally roused though.

    • karol 1.2

      Thanks, micky & weka.

      And there is an increasing weariness amongst activists about the quality of political representation and the capture of Parliament by vested interests.

      Especially among some of us oldies, who feel like we’ve been fighting the same battles over & over again.

      That’s why it’s so refreshing & inspiring to see the younger ones like Sam Johnson, the powershift and some of the Occupiers. They don’t have that baggage, and have a fresh take on things – willing to get in there and try new kinds of action.

    • TighyRighty 1.3

      Your desire to tear down the facade of a false reality? You spend your days in a jargonistic haze that screams of a disconnect between reality and falsehood

  2. Colonial Weka 2

    Great roundup Karol, thanks.

  3. Bill 3

    Absolutely no idea how you manage to turn out such high quality posts on such a regular basis. Thankyou.

    • lprent 3.1

      Nor do I. Was trying to write a post this morning, but got dragged out to fix dads iTunes, put wood away before it rains, and now shopping. Holidays are hard work

      • karol 3.1.1

        Thanks, everyone. Maybe I just don’t have enough to do?

        I don’t have so many family commitments these days, and usually only work part time. I usually can’t do a post every day, though. But it was looking like there aren’t as many authors about as usual. Before I left for work today, I was looking to see if anyone else was going to post something. If so, I would have left this “collective action” year in review for another day.

        I’ll probably be chilling and attending to some other stuff tomorrow.

    • McFliper 3.2

      Yes indeed, and a nice, readable flow, too.

    • +1 Heartening to be reminded of all the positive efforts of people who are working hard to make this a better place. Thanks Karol.

  4. Ad 4

    I have grudging admiration for those who continue to protest, and through fresh means. I want the good to win. And cynicism is a moral suicide.

    But none of the above list won anything of note. Central government changed its mind on very very little. The public realm shrank all over the place, at least in analogue space. Capitalism got far worse, not better.

    Oddly, the convergence of MSM and blogging such as Tumeke, and Whaleoil and Truth (sorry) were good signals of where to next.
    Blogging needs to colonise and infect the MSM. Best convergence moment of the year: Julia gillard’s speech in the House against Abbott going viral around the world. Second best goes to Keith Ng and friends for the first proper dent in Paula Bennet’s smile – great crossover instruments there.

    Blogs are a power, but not yet enough alone. Perhaps they never will be, and with the MSM will remain in a knight vs bishop capability standoff. I think the MSM is losing faster than they know.

    Transportblog is now the best, most feared single-focus blog around in transport circles. It’s not admitted of course. Labour leadership loathe The Standard for rallying members, though they would cut off their tongue and boil it before confirming that. Same for Whaleoil. But imagine if Campbell Live did a regular column here, and vice versa.

    We have grown. But we have not yet stormed the gates.

    • Colonial Weka 4.1

      Very good Ad.

      “But none of the above list won anything of note”

      I disagree with that somewhat. No big obvious heroic wins, but maybe that’s not the point. Or at least, it’s possible to do good even when we haven’t stormed the gates. There is alot of important work that needs to happen on an ongoing basis in order to storm the gates, but even without the big wins, those actions, small, often invisible, are crucial to keep any sense of a fair and compassionate society alive.

      Your analysis of the potential of blogs is spot on.

  5. “Campbell Live”

    Can kiss their over opinionated sense of self worth.
    They give a multi millionaire the air time to promote his own best interests and refuse to even acknowledge my repeated requests for assistance.
    I like JC, he’s done some good work trying to get the truth out of our slime bag mps, but with such a great story being ignored here, I’m concerned about editorial focus.

    • Populuxe1 5.1

      Because it’s all about you?

      • The Al1en 5.1.1

        Nope, because it’s about hungry children, greedy developers, inept council and wasted opportunity.
        When it all come out in the wash, some office jobsworth will have some explaining to do, fingers crossed.

        I not only doubt CL’s editorial focus, but also their sincerity and journalistic integrity.
        Still happy for them to make amends, though.
        Call me 😉

  6. Populuxe1 6

    It was a blessed relief to read this without one single reference to Key having holidays in Hawai’i. Thank you for this small mercy.

  7. …and am just wondering, perhaps a lot of bother could be saved if someone were to get an autograph off our Dear Leader…fortuitously positioned at the end of a legal document declaring that the Natz have lost the plot and no longer wish to continue with the pretense of running the country and pleading for someone else more competent take over?

    Probably not hard to do…and really all for the best…

  8. copperhead 8

    Thank you karol for that concise list, i just want to back up what you said about sam johnson, that young man is a saint, and does prove that my generation are not just a forgotten generation full of delinquent yoof, as most rwnj derps would believe… and yeah, pop why bother mentioning holidays?

    • karol 8.1

      Ah, yes. It’s refreshing when the younger generations come up with new initiatives and enthusiasm for action. Sam makes it so simple, while also making it seem like fun – just go out and contribute. But also, he watched and listened to the people on the ground in Japan – showing how people can do positive action in great adversity.

      The current era of individualism & the MSM, make it seem like collective action won’t achieve anything. Too often they go on about being responsible for yourself and your own little patch, while heaping blame and scorn on the least powerful.

    • belladonna 8.2

      I am sure I heard Sam Johnson say his politics are those of the ACT party – not so much of a saint then.

      • karol 8.2.1

        Ah well – it does seem he’s been a bit of a young Nat.


        Still, the student army was a very good collective effort.

        • Crimson Nile

          Indeed. He went out, organised and got things done for the community. No idle clicktivism for this man.

          • karol

            there was some clicking involved though – people were recruited and signed up via facebook. From the above wikipedia link:

            Organised using Facebook, and social media, the concept enabled thousands of students and residents of Christchurch to make a contribution to those most affected by the devastating earthquakes.

      • Blue 8.2.2

        Yes Belladonna, this young mans politics are far more important than his actions aren’t they? Pathetic.

        • belladonna

          Of course I admire Sam’s effort to help in Canterbury. He did a wonderful job of galvanising the student army. I know that I read some years ago that ACT did not believe in unemployment, sickness and invalid benefits – anyone who believes that is ok is not saintly in my opinion.
          I was disappointed to hear him say his political leanings were to the ACT party but who knows,
          maybe there is hope for ACT afterall.

          • karol

            I recall when the Student Volunteer Army was first in the news, most people here were all for it. Some pondered on the way the right also were for it, even though it was against their more usual anti-collectivist views. It was remarked that in times of disaster, the right falls in with community volunteer, collaborative strategies more common on the left.

            Much like they are all for bank bail-outs when the free-market fails, but return to BAU “neoliberalism” after the crisis.

      • karol 8.2.3

        I don’t know what Sam’s approach is to the politics of organising collectively long term. His biggest contribution so far is mobilising people for disaster relief – more a short term thing.

        Long term, it’s harder to continue to organise collectively and in a democratic way. The Occupy movement made that a focus of their approach – that they reflect on process as much as aims, and the process they favour is leaderless participant democracy.

        This is something I raised in the post – not all ways of organising collaboratively will bring positive change with respect to income inequalities, etc. In the long term, can the left operate effectively with leaderless groups?

  9. Quasimodo 9

    John Key, a celebrity ? He’s been there two terms for heaven’s sake ?

    To me he’s more like a pair of smelly, old, darned sox !

    It’s time for a new face ..

    • karol 9.1

      It’s why I put celebrity in quote marks. Key certainly plays along with the ethos of celebrity culture. , however inadequately.

  10. Sideshow Bob 10

    “Practicing leaderless participant democracy”. Good grief.

    • fender Viper 10.1

      Yeah, while a protest may have organiser/s, there is no leader, just people having their say, as is their right in a democracy.

      You have a problem with that Sideshow?

  11. karol 11

    And how the powerful elites dislike grass roots participatory democracy. Heavily redacted documents, released under the US Freedom of Information Act, show that the Occupy movement was being investigated as a criminal and terrorist organisation.


    “This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF). “These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

  12. Mary 12

    Karol, have you herard from xtasy?

    • karol 12.1

      No. And I have never had any personal/private communication with him. I hope he is OK.

      • Mary 12.1.1

        One of your colleagues was going to email him directly. Just thought someone may have heard he’s okay.

  13. belladonna 13

    I also hope he is OK. Xtasy, please post that you are alright.

  14. Rogue Trooper 14

    ol’ Clare Curran aye?

    “…call me a dog, well that’s fair enough, ’cause it ain’t no use to pretend ,You’re Wrong ”
    :) (wait to you see us at TS “unleashed”)


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